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Sikh group to use UN convention in defamation case against Capt Amarinder Singh

The hardline group Sikhs for Justice plans to use the Hague Convention to serve papers relating to a defamation case in a Canadian court upon Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

world Updated: Jun 04, 2017 10:13 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Captain Amarinder Singh,Punjab government,Indian government
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh paying homage to late police official KPS Gill at a bhog ceremony in Constitution Club, New Delhi, on June 3, 2017.(PTI)

In a legal gambit that will involve the Indian government and a state administration, the hardline activist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) plans on using an international convention to have papers relating to a defamation case in an Ontario court served upon Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

SFJ filed the defamation case against Singh last year, in which it claimed damages of $1 million and a permanent injunction against publication of any statement that linked it to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

The complaint related to Singh mentioning an “ISI-SFJ nexus” and stated, “The defamatory statements have caused reputational damage to the SFJ’s status as a non-profit organisation and...have hindered its ability to address ongoing issues of significance to Sikh Canadians.”

The Ontario Superior Court in Toronto has issued an order to SFJ’s lawyers, Goldblatt Partners, stating that the period for serving the statement of claim against Singh has been extended till October 18.

SFJ’s legal advisor Gurpatwant Pannun said their lawyers would use a United Nations convention to serve the necessary papers upon the chief minister: “We have to send it to the ‘Central Authority’ created by India under the Hague Convention and our lawyers will forward the summons and complaint to them in Delhi. And The Hague service is complied with when central authority receives the papers."

The Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra Judicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters came into being in 1965, though India only signed on to it in 2007. The “Central Authority” identified in India is the department of legal affairs in the law ministry.

If this central agency accepts the papers, it will then be responsible for serving them upon Singh. A clause in the convention states that India has the option to “refuse to comply therewith only if it deems that compliance would infringe its sovereignty or security”.

However, Pannun argued, “The defamation lawsuit is not against India, its against an individual, Capt Amarinder So India can not refuse to comply with the request.”

While the process is considered complete once the papers have been served and a certificate to that effect issued to the party which contacted it, even otherwise SFJ plans on going ahead, as Pannun said, “Once our lawyers send papers to the central authority of India and they receive the papers; our part as per Hague Service is done. We do usually wait for the final response, otherwise we can file the affidavit as per Hague.”

SFJ has targeted Singh in the past, preventing him from undertaking a scheduled visit to Canada last spring, when it filed a private prosecution based on an affidavit of a person allegedly tortured during Singh’s previous tenure as Punjab chief minister.

Now, it appears, after his return to that post, SFJ wants to take that confrontation international.

First Published: Jun 03, 2017 20:13 IST