The Congress,which has been named in a case in New York for its alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India,has challenged the jurisdiction of a US court to hear the matter filed against it by a Sikh advocacy group.
On Wednesday,federal court Judge Robert Sweet heard oral arguments in the case filed by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) on the issues of service,jurisdiction and the Congress failure to respond to the summons in the case. Sweet said the Congress has not filed any defence on the merits of the allegations of conspiring,aiding,abetting,organising and carrying out the attacks on Sikhs in November 1984. The party,however,has challenged the US courts jurisdiction to hear the case of 1984 Sikh genocide.
Attorneys from the law firm Jones Day,representing the Congress,argued that under the Alien Tort Claims Act,a corporation cannot be sued for human rights violations by its members. Lawyers for the victims,on the other hand,argued that there is difference between the status of a corporation and political organisation.
The SFJ alleged that since the Congress 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.
According to Jones Day attorneys,service of summons on the party through Hague Convention is flawed because the partys headquarters in New Delhi did not receive the summons and complaint. They added that serving summons last year on Surinder Malhotra,president of the Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC) here,is inappropriate as the Congress has no relationship with INOC and Malhotra is not authorised to act on behalf of the party.
To this,SFJs 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.
They also presented evidence showing that after receipt and acknowledgement of summons in March 2011,the Congress had taken a 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 and Torture Victim Protection Act against the Congress for conspiring,aiding,abetting,organising and carrying out attacks on the Sikh population in November 1984.