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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Dec 2014

US court dismisses law suit against Sonia in 1984 riots case

PTI  New York, June 11, 2014
First Published: 20:28 IST(11/6/2014) | Last Updated: 20:32 IST(11/6/2014)

A US court here has dismissed a law suit against the Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case filed by a Sikh group, ruling that she cannot be held "personally liable", but did not bar the group from bringing fresh litigation against her.

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In a 13-page order, US District Judge Brian Cogan granted Gandhi's motion to dismiss the complaint filed by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) for "lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim".

He, however, denied the request by Gandhi that the court impose an "anti-suit injunction" prohibiting SFJ from bringing further law suits.

Cogan said the court could not consider Gandhi to be personally liable based upon the allegations of extra-judicial killings or torture when she only became Congress president in 1998, more than a decade after the riots.

He said the anti-Sikh riots occurred almost 30 years before SFJ and the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit, and "the statute of limitations poses an obvious hurdle for plaintiffs".

Responding to the order, Gandhi's attorney Ravi Batra told PTI that justice had been "well served" as SFJ's "ill-conceived meritless publicity-case" had been dismissed.

However, SFJ legal adviser GS Pannun said since the court had not granted Gandhi's plea to bar SFJ from filing further law suits relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the group would "continue to hold the Congress leaders accountable before US courts for their role in organising systematic killing of Sikhs".

SFJ and the other plaintiffs in the case had alleged that Gandhi's conduct towards the perpetrators caused the victims, survivors and the Sikh community serious pain and suffering.

Batra hoped the SFJ would drop the case and not seek to appeal in a higher court.

In April, a separate judge had dismissed a similar human rights violation law suit filed against the Congress by SFJ in the anti-Sikh riots case saying the group had no legal standing to file such a suit and events that did not "touch and concern" the US would not be heard in an American court.

Cogan held, as argued by Batra, that SFJ could never be a plaintiff under the Alien Torts Statute (ATS) or a Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) in any US court.

The order puts "SFJ out of the publicity-law suit business, where reputations are toyed with and genuine victims' expectations falsely raised," Batra said.

Cogan ruled that SFJ lacked standing to sue anyone under the ATS or TVPA, and the court did not know if the group had any members, beyond its "self-proclaimed" status as a representative. The
TVPA has a 10-year statute of limitation.

He held that the court could not conclude that there is even a relationship "between SFJ and the Sikh community".

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