A U.S. court has ordered Congress president Sonia Gandhi to provide a copy of her passport as documentary evidence by April 7 to determine if she was in America in September last year when a Sikh rights group claims it had served summons on her in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.
Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) claims that Ms. Gandhi was served summons in September last year when she had allegedly visited Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York for a medical check-up.
The group has challenged in court Ms. Gandhi’s claim that she was not present in New York in September last year and so was not served with summons or complaint in the human rights violation lawsuit filed against her by the Sikh rights group.
Judge Brian Cogan of Manhattan federal court on Thursday said Ms. Gandhi has not demonstrated sufficiently that she was not in the U.S. between September 2 and 12 last year and should provide some form of documentary evidence, preferably her passport copy, by April 7 to determine whether she was in the U.S. or not.
“The court cannot find that a sufficient showing of non-presence has been made based on the affirmation without plaintiffs having received some discovery to confirm it. Defendant must provide some documentary evidence to corroborate her otherwise-unsupported declaration stating that defendant was not in the U.S. at the time of service,” he said.
“It seems to the court that the easiest way would be for defendant to provide a copy of her passport, showing her most recent entry and exit stamps into and out of the United States, thus demonstrating that she was not in the country between September 2 and 12, 2013,” he said.
SFJ’s rights violation case against Ms. Gandhi in Brooklyn Federal Court hinges on the issue of whether Ms. Gandhi was served summons on September 9 as the group claims or whether she was not present in the U.S. during that time as per her assertion.
Ms. Gandhi has filed a motion in court seeking dismissal of the lawsuit against her citing lack of personal jurisdiction and that she was never personally served with the summons.
Responding to Cogan’s order, Ms. Gandhi’s attorney Ravi Batra said the judge “focused on Gandhi’s sworn declaration, has asked for documentary supporting proof to expedite issue-resolution and not waste time on SFJ-sponsored wild goose chases. Swift justice, when available, is to be cherished, and as attorneys for Ms. Gandhi, we welcome it.”
Mr. Batra has submitted in court a letter written to him on an All India Congress Committee letterhead and signed by Ms. Gandhi.
In the letter, Ms. Gandhi states that contrary to claims made by SFJ, she was not in New York in September last year and was not served summons in the case.
SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said if Ms. Gandhi is not able to provide proof by April 7 corroborating her claim of absence from the U.S., the group would move the court to initiate trial on the merits against her on charges of shielding and protecting Congress party leaders allegedly involved in the anti-Sikh riots in 1984.