As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives here on a four-day visit, a Sikh rights group has secured summons against him from a US court in connection with alleged human rights violations in counter-insurgency operations in Punjab in the 1990s.
The Sikh For Justice (SFJ), a New York-based rights body, is now planning to file an urgent leave "to effect alternative means of service" that would allow it to deliver the summons to the White House staff and members of Manmohan's security team when he is here.
Sources said it would be very tough for the SFJ to serve summons on the PM, given the tight security around him. There are also procedural difficulties for the SFJ to get the necessary court directions issued for the White House and the Secret Service.
Ravi Batra, the New York-based attorney who represents the Congress in a similar case filed against it by the SFJ, termed it as a publicity gimmick.
"The SFJ's 'red carpet' welcome, a lawsuit against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the leader of a free, independent and sovereign nation, is headline-grabbing, while insulting law, decency and common sense," Batra told PTI.
"American courts have tools to handle an out-of-control litigant, whose main goal is to use the court's ministerial act of accepting a complaint, with the $350 filing fee paid, and then automatically issuing a summons, to falsely imply in pre-made press releases that a court had acted on some merits, when it did no such thing," Batra said.
The 24-page complaint alleges that Manmohan, as the finance minister in the early 1990s, approved and financed the practice of "cash rewards" to members of security forces for allegedly killing Sikhs through extra-judicial means to curb militancy.
The complaint also alleges that during his tenure as the Prime Minister, beginning in 2004, Manmohan "actively shielded and protected members of his political party who were allegedly involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots."
Sikh groups have announced to hold a "Justice Rally" on Friday in front of White House during the meeting between Manmohan and US President Barack Obama.
Justifying the filing of the lawsuit, SFJ's legal adviser Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said the human rights violation lawsuit against Manmohan has been filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act and Torture Victim Protection Act for funding several counter-insurgency operations in Punjab.