Cong party challenges US court's jurisdiction in 84 riots case

Cong party challenges US court's jurisdiction in 84 riots case

Congress party, which has been named in a case here for its alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, has challenged the jurisdiction of a US court to hear the matter filed against it by a Sikh advocacy group.

US Judge Robert Sweet of federal court here heard oral arguments yesterday in the case filed by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) on the issues of service, jurisdiction and Congress's failure to respond to the summons in the case.

Sweet said Congress party has not filed any defence on the merits of the allegations of conspiring, aiding, abetting, organizing and carrying out the attacks on Sikhs in November 1984.

It has, however, challenged the US court's jurisdiction to hear the case of 1984 Sikh genocide.

Attorneys from the law firm 'Jones Day' representing the Congress party argued that under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a "corporation" cannot be sued for human rights violations by its members.

Lawyers for the victims argued there is difference between the status of a "corporation" and "political organisation".

SFJ said since the Congress party is taking the defence that a political party cannot be sued under Alien Tort Claims Act, the victims will amend the complaint to include the names of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and national leadership of the party in their capacities as President and office bearers.

Jones Day attorneys further said service of summons on the party through Hague Convention is flawed because the party's headquarters in New Delhi did not receive the summons and complaint.

Jones Day attorney said serving summons last year on President of the Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC) here Surinder Malhotra is inappropriate as the Congress party has no relationship with INOC and Malhotra is not authorised to act on behalf of the Congress.

SFJ's lawyers said they have submitted evidence to the US Court showing that summons and complaint was delivered in March 2011 to the central authority in Delhi, established by the Indian government for receiving and serving judicial documents from foreign court as required by the Hague Service Convention of 1965.

Under Article 15 of the Hague Convention on Service Abroad, which has been signed by India and United States, service is considered complete once copy of Summons and Complaint is delivered to the Central Authority, SFJ's lawyers said.

SFJ's attorneys presented evidence showing that after receipt and acknowledgement of summons in March 2011, Congress took series of legal actions to defend against the claims of human rights violations.

Sikhs for Justice, along with victims of the Sikh riots, had filed a complaint in March 2011 under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) against the Congress party for conspiring, aiding, abetting, organizing and carrying out attacks on Sikh population in November 1984.

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