A Federal court in New York has ordered that summons issued to Sonia Gandhi on a complaint by a pro-Khalistan rights group, the ‘Sikhs for Justice’ (SFJ) be served through the staff of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre where she is believed to be under medical care or the security personnel assigned to her.
The US-based SFJ had filed an emergency motion before the court saying that because she is a high profile political figure, a foreigner and the subject of heavy security, the personal service of summons as required under law is impracticable and the plaintiffs (two victims of 1984 anti Sikh riots) be granted permission to effect service through alternate means.
Last week the same court had issued summons for Ms. Gandhi on a complaint made by SFJ on behalf of two victims, Jasbir Singh and Mohinder Singh, who have alleged that Ms. Gandhi is protecting and shielding Congress leaders involved in attacks on Sikhs during 1984. A class action suit against Ms. Gandhi under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) for her role in protecting Congress leaders was filed and the onus for serving the summons lay with the plaintiffs.
On Monday, the court ordered that service of summons and the complaint by SFJ be accomplished by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to: a) Hospital administration and/or Staff at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York; b) any of the security agents assigned to defendant Ms. Sonia Gandhi during her stay in New York, NY including, State Department detail, Special Agents of Secret Service, Special agents of Federal Bureau of Investigation, Officers of the NY State Police, Officers of NYPD and members of any private security details. The order further directs the hospital and security staff to give summons and complaint to Sonia Gandhi.
Speaking to The Hindu on phone from NY, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor of the SFJ said that the latest order should send a message to those who believe that they could evade service of US Court summons by virtue of their high political positions. “Times have changed and this is a wake up call for Indian politicians that they cannot evade internationally accepted norms of justice. Unlike judicial system of India which failed to punish the Congress leaders involved in genocidal attacks on Sikhs in 1984, US judicial system does not protect any one because of their political positions”, he said. “The order clears the air about the seriousness of the case as Congress leaders in India had been downplaying it by describing the suit as an inconsequential matter,” he added.
The complaint against Ms. Gandhi alleges that “from November 1 through November 4, 1984 approximately 30,000 members of a minority religious group known as the “Sikhs” were intentionally tortured, raped and murdered by groups that were incited, organized, controlled and armed by the Congress (I), the ruling political party”. Specifically, the SFJ and victims are seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Ms. Gandhi as president of the Congress party for her role in protecting Kamal Nath, Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and other Congress party leaders from being prosecuted for their alleged crimes.