Immunity Won't Fully Nix Sikh Massacre Case
(CN) - Though Manmohan Singh has immunity from claims that he supported Sikh genocide as prime minister of India, he may be liable for allegedly doing so in his prior post as finance minister, a federal judge ruled.
Sikhs for Justice and Inderjit Singh filed a pro se complaint against the former prime minister in Washington, D.C., nearly a year ago, claiming that he tortured and killed Indian Sikhs as head of India's government and as the finance minister before that.
Their case "languished" for seven months while plaintiffs tried to serve him, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote Tuesday.
The United States intervened in the case this past May and filed papers that said Singh qualifies for head-of-state immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for any actions carried out while he was prime minister from 2004 to 2014.
Though Singh's challengers argued that such immunity is unavailable because he left office three weeks after the filing, Boasberg said, "they are only partly correct."
Singh resigned as prime minister after losing the election for his decade-long seat to Narenda Modi on May 16.
Singh was "absolutely immune from suit until May 26 - the day his successor as prime minister was sworn in," the ruling states.
"The day he left office, however, Singh lost the absolute protection of status-based head-of-state immunity," Boasberg added. "As a now-former head of state, he nonetheless retains 'residual immunity' for official acts taken while he served in that capacity."
The allegations survive, however, as to Sing's time as finance minister from 1991 to 1996 "because such residual immunity does not cover actions Singh pursued before taking office," Boasberg wrote.
Sikhs for Justice also sued Singh in Manhattan back in 2010, and they filed another action in Milwaukee against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The human rights group advocates for members of the Sikh religion and seeks recognition of the 1984 Sikh Massacre, which occurred after Sikh bodyguards assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, as a genocide. Most Sikhs live in Punjab, a northwestern Indian state of India.