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2002 Gujarat riots: US court seeks response to objections over PM Narendra Modi’s immunity

ACJ said Modi is being sued for acts committed as CM of Gujarat and not for any acts that he committed as India's PM.

By: Press Trust of India | New York |
November 21, 2014 1:38:01 pm
Modi met Obama at the White House this week and held talks on strengthening the bilateral ties. (Source: AP photo) ACJ said Modi is being sued for acts committed as CM of Gujarat and not for any acts that he committed as India’s PM. (Source: AP photo)

A US court has asked the State Department to respond by December 10 to the objections raised by a rights group over the immunity granted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with a lawsuit filed against him for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The American Justice Center (AJC) had filed a memorandum last week providing legal justification on why the case against Modi should move forward, and why Modi should not be granted immunity for the alleged human rights abuses committed during his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat.

In response to AJC’s brief, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York has directed the US State Department to respond to AJC’s legal brief challenging the US position on Modi’s immunity. The order requires the State Department to respond by December 10 to AJC’s “objection to the suggestion of immunity”.

AJC President Joseph Whittington expressed confidence of the sound legal basis for the case against Modi and said he
expects the court to allow the lawsuit to move forward.

“Survivors of the horrific Gujarat massacres expect the US to uphold its own laws as well as international norms of
justice,” he further added.

The group said Modi is being sued for acts committed as Chief Minister of Gujarat and not for any acts that he committed as India’s Prime Minister.

“It is undisputed that foreign sovereign immunity extends only to the ‘head of the foreign government’ for the actions
committed during tenure as’‘head of foreign government’,” AJC’s Memorandum of Law said.

AJC said Modi is not immune under Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA), as the US Supreme Court decided that the
term “foreign state” does not include individual government officials. In the Tort case against Modi, it is the individual
who is being sued and not the Republic of India, the group added.

The lawsuit against Modi has been filed by AJC along with two survivors of the post-Godhra violence under the Alien Tort
Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

Last month, US Attorney Preet Bharara had told a federal court here that the Executive Branch of the US government “has
determined that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the sitting head of a foreign government, enjoys head of state immunity
from the jurisdiction of US courts” for his alleged role in 2002 communal riots in Gujarat when he was the state’s chief
minister.

As such “Modi is entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of this Court over this suit,” Bharara said in his submission before a US court.

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