Court Rejects Allegations of Tortured Sikhs in India

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Though they raised serious allegations against allies of India’s ruling party, Sikhs who fled the country lack standing to seek relief in New York, a federal judge ruled.
     When they filed suit last year, Harjit Singh and Janki Kuar said henchmen of Manjit Singh G.K. — the president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee — “hounded” them for refusing to endorse the leader.
     In addition to serving as the representative body for Sikhs, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee is an ally of the right-wing, ruling Hindu party Bharatiya Janata Party, according to the complaint.
     Singh announced his candidacy in late 2012, the plaintiffs claim, alleging that the presidential hopeful “used the police and his private goons to torture, harass, intimidate, and hound his political opponents and anyone who did not support his election.”
     Harjit claims that police and other officials acting on Singh’s orders “hounded” him with “death threats to [his] immediate family,” illegal detention and physical and mental torture, including sensory deprivation, sexual humiliation, and threats with a pistol in his mouth.
     Kuar, whose husband died amid the unrest of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, was eligible to collect compensation — the equivalent of $15.75 in rupees — for survivors and widows of the massacres.
     When she tried to collect, however, Manjit Singh personally ordered his goons to sexually assault her, according to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs sought punitive damages under the Torture Victims Protection Act, but U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter threw out the case Thursday.
     Despite voicing sympathy for the plaintiffs, Carter said the lawsuit could not move forward in the U.S. courts.
     “Plaintiffs’ allegations are serious,” his 14-page opinion notes. “Nevertheless, the court may not reach the merits of their claims because it is clear from the complaint that the court lacks jurisdiction to do so. The court does not have personal jurisdiction over defendant and it is less than clear whether the court has subject-matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ claims.”
     Singh’s attorney Hector Roman emphasized that his client denies the allegations.
     “We were always confident the court didn’t have proper jurisdiction over this matter and are very happy with the court’s ruling,” he wrote in an email.
     An attorney for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
     The New York-based advocacy group Sikhs for Justice has sued India’s political leaders several times in U.S. federal courts.
     Several of those lawsuits stemmed from mob attacks that killed at least 2,733 Sikhs in 1984.

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