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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Indian Politician Dodges Suit Over Sikh Attacks

MANHATTAN (CN) - A Sikh advocacy group must refile claims that an Indian politician led a deadly series of attacks against the minority group in 1984, a federal judge ruled.

Sikhs for Justice failed to properly serve the politician, Kamal Nath, when it filed suit in April 2010, according to the March 7 decision. The complaint, which it amended last year, sought damages over the attacks against Sikhs that occurred throughout India in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

In addition to Nath, the complaint alleged violations of international law under the Alien Torts Claims Act and the Torture Victim Protection Act against Indian National Congress Party and Indian Legal Heritage.

The Indian government appointed various commissions to investigate the events of 1984, the most recent in 2005, but found no conclusive evidence about the defendants' involvement and no court proceedings have occurred in India against them.

Sikhs for Justice and several individual plaintiffs say that the Congress Party and Nath, a high-profile member at the time, "virtually had complete control over governance of India" and "as the ruling political party of India nationally and locally, was able to pursue a policy of genocide against the Sikhs under color of state law and with the apparent or actual authority of the government of India." The group represents Sikhs who survived the attacks.

They claim to have served Nath in the United States outside the Indian Consulate on April 6, 2010. Nath has traveled to the United States 13 times and to New York eight in the last six years in an official capacity, meeting with United Nations and World Bank officials and attending conferences.

Claiming that he was not served and that no one witnessed him being approached or handed anything, Nath said the papers were given "Sandeep," who refused to accept them and tossed them into the trash. A member of the press corps then handed the summons and complaint to Nath during a press conference inside the Consulate.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet found that this was not adequate service and that personal jurisdiction over the defendant was therefore never established.

"Conclusory statements are not sufficient to overcome a defendant's sworn affidavit that service was improper," Sweet wrote. "No one handed the summons or complaint to Nath outside of the Indian Consulate."

Sweet also credited a statement from the Nath affidavit that says he did not grant authority to Sandeep or anyone else to receive service of process. "No evidence has established that any individual was authorized to accept service on Nath's behalf," he wrote.

Being handed the complaint during a press conference inside the Consulate also does not meet the terms of proper service under the Vienna Convention, which states that "service of process at ... consular premises is prohibited," the decision states.

Sweet dismissed the complaint as to Nath, giving the plaintiffs leave to refile.

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