“Jane Doe”, multiple “John Does”, a man only known as Asif and the American Justice Centre — these were the variegated plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to a dramatic summons issued by a New York federal court against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to arrive in the city for a much-anticipated visit.
The 28-page complaint that was sent to the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York may well have appeared to be compelling in the eyes of U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, for the one-page summons was issued on the same day the complaint was made — September 25.
In their lawsuit, which the plaintiffs > shared exclusively with The Hindu , they have made eight distinct claims for relief which include, in order, crimes against humanity; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; extrajudicial killing; wrongful deaths; negligence; public nuisance; battery; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
All allegations pertain to the role that the plaintiffs perceived Mr. Modi to have played in presiding over the anti-Muslim pogrom that occurred in Gujarat in 2002, when he was the state’s Chief Minister.
The lawsuit also extensively outlines for the U.S. judge the various cases brought against Mr. Modi and other BJP functionaries, reflecting past or current proceedings in India, including the Naroda Patiya massacre along with the conviction of Maya Kodnani, the Ehsan Jafri case, and the assassination case of Haren Pandya.
Among the plaintiff group the complaint identifies “Jane Doe” as a Muslim woman whose family lived in a village near the city of Anand in Gujarat and was “attacked by workers of the BJP and RSS”. Jane Doe’s mother was severely beaten and died, and her brother also sustained serious injuries but survived, the document noted.
The second individual plaintiff Asif was also noted to be an Indian citizen, again from the city of Anand, was allegedly lured to a remote spot by a faked phone call and there was beaten nearly to death by “an armed contingent of BJP-RSS workers”. Later, when he was working for an NGO helping victims of the massacre, he was again tortured, beaten and threatened by the same persons, the complaint said.
On the wider class of Gujarati Muslim riot survivors the lawsuit noted, that it included approximately 300 victims of the massacre, and “the class is so numerous that joinder of individual plaintiffs is impracticable”.
However the complaint promised that plaintiff class leaders would “testify and produce sworn statements to be filed under seal for the security and safety of both themselves and their other family members still residing in India and subject to the pressures of local law enforcement”.
The plaintiffs also appeared to pre-emptively address the question of jurisdictional authority, arguing in their complaint that Mr. Modi was liable to face the charges being brought against him as defined by customary international law and treaties of the U.S., statutes and common law of the U.S. and of New York, the Vienna Convention, and the Torture Victims Protections Act.
Under the authority of multiple sections of the U.S. Alien Tort Statutes the plaintiffs urged that the Southern District of New York was a “proper” venue for the case especially considering that “the victims of the massacre will not receive justice in India as a tainted Special Investigative Team has submitted a report that is both questionable and lacking in credibility”.
Appealing to Judge Torres that there are 30 million cases pending in the Indian courts, that it takes an average of ten years to adjudicate a case in court there —after 30 years some cases against those accused in the 1984 mass killings of Sikhs were still being adjudicated — the plaintiffs said, “There is no remedy in India. Jurisdiction is proper in this forum and this court must allow for this case to proceed accordingly.”