A US court here has dismissed a lawsuit against 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.
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 should impose an “anti-suit injunction” prohibiting SFJ from bringing further lawsuits.
Cogan said the court cannot 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 1984 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 has been “well served” as SFJ’s “ill-conceived merit less publicity-case” has been dismissed.
However, SFJ legal advisor G S Pannun said that since the court has not granted Gandhi’s plea to bar SFJ from filing further lawsuits?relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the group would “continue to hold the Congress leaders accountable before US courts for their role in organizing 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 that 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 lawsuit filed against the Congress party by SFJ in the anti-Sikh riots case saying the group has no legal standing to file such a suit and events that do not “touch and concern” the US will not be heard in an American court.
Cogan held, as argued by Batra, that SFJ can 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-lawsuit business, where reputations are toyed with and genuine victims? expectations falsely raised,” Batra said.
Cogan ruled that SFJ lacks standing to sue anyone under the ATS or TVPA, and the court does not know if the group has any members, beyond its “self-proclaimed” status as a representative. The TVPA has a ten-year statute of limitation.
He held that the court cannot conclude that there is even a relationship “between SFJ and the Sikh Community.”