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US court dismisses 1984 riots case against Congress

New York: A US court has dismissed a lawsuit against India's Congress party relating to the November 1984 anti-Sikh violence, saying it did not sufficiently "touch and concern" the US court to exercise jurisdiction.

1984 Sikh Riots
Representational pic

However, even as he dismissed the case filed by the US based rights group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), Judge Robert W. Sweet of US District Court here ruled that corporate entities like the Congress party of India can be sued under Alien Torts Statute (ATS).

On the issue of corporate liability, Sweet citing the case of Balintulo V. Daimler AG ruled that "Daimler seems to concretely establish that a corporate defendant can be liable under the ATS, assuming that the statute's "touch and concern' requirements are adequately alleged".

"Accordingly, the fact that defendants are incorporated does not, in and of itself, relieve them of liability under the statute or remove this court's jurisdiction over plaintiffs' allegations," Sweet said in his April 24 ruling.

However, 'plaintiffs' combined facts, even if credited, are insufficient to establish that the conduct sufficiently 'touched and concerned' the US to establish jurisdiction under the ATS and dismissal is appropriate under 12(b)( 1)," he ruled.

The SFJ said it will challenge the dismissal of the case against the Congress party before the US Court of Appeals within 30 days as required under the federal rules of civil procedure.

The rights group asserted the case sufficiently "touches and concerns" the US and SFJ has "institutional standing" to seek "declaratory judgment" on November 1984 violence against the Sikh community after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

In support of its contention, the SFJ will argue that the plaintiffs have already been granted refugee status by California Federal Court as victims of violence which proves plaintiffs' sufficient connection to the US.

The monetary compensation in the case against the Congress party is being sought only by the individual plaintiffs, who are survivors or legal heirs of the 1984 victims, the SFJ said.

The SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said the SFJ will argue that since India's Congress party commands, controls and directs the functioning of New York based Indian National Overseas Congress, the requirement of "touch and concern" is met.

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