US court orders 'pre-trial conference' in Kamal Nath case

"Counsel are directed to appear for a pre-trial conference to discuss settlement, exploring contemplated motions, stipulating facts, arranging a plan and schedule for all discovery and setting a time for trial," the court said.

No comments were forthcoming from the Minister's side today. Last month, the court had issued a "default order" against Nath for his failure to respond to summons, which was issued on April 6.

The case against him has been filed by Sikhs for Justice, a US-based non-profit organisation, along with two members of the Sikh community -- Jasbir Singh and Mohinder Singh. Reacting to the default order, Nath had said "I have taken note of the contents of the news report and shall take appropriate legal advice and action in the matter. In any event, I reiterate that I have committed no wrong and I have been advised that proceedings initiated against me in the USA are liable for summary dismissal."

The complaint states that the "the defendant was seen and heard by many on the scene of Gurudwara Rakab Ganj. In this particular incident defendant was leading and in control of a mob of about four thousand people."

Nath, who steadfastly maintains his innocence, has asserted that he tried to calm the mob down and not incite it. "I really have no clue about it. I don't have a basis and I don't know the authenticity. I don't know the validity," Nath had said in April, shortly after hearing about the summons.

In 2005, the Nanavati commission on the Sikh riots described the minister's testimony as "vague" but concluded that there was no evidence that he had incited a mob. The petitioners, who have filed the case under the Alien Torts Claims Act, seek compensatory and punitive damages for several allegations, including crimes against humanity, degrading treatment and wrongful killing.

Noting that a "jury trial" was preferable, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the lawyer for the case, told PTI that they intend to put Nath "in a spot" and bring international attention to this case.

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