A US court here has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Sikh group against Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the anti-Sikh riots case, granting her motion that there is lack of subject matter jurisdiction but did not bar the group from bringing litigation against her in future. 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. 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.
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 SFJ has any members, beyond its “self-proclaimed” status as a representative.
He held that the court cannot conclude that there is even a relationship “between SFJ and the Sikh Community.” The TVPA has a ten-year statute of limitation. Cogan 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.”
The court added that it cannot consider Gandhi to be personally liable based upon the allegations of extrajudicial killings or torture when she only became Congress president in1998, more than a decade after the 1984 riots.