US court allows group to  challenge Modi’s immunity

Petitioners given 15 days to respond to the US government over the matter

Washington : A US court has granted 15 days to the petitioners to respond to the State Department’s ‘suggestion of immunity’ to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an alleged human rights violation case.

On October 19, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, submitted in a court in New York a suggestion of immunity for Modi for his alleged role in the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat when he was the state’s chief minister.

The court has asked the petitioners to respond by November 4 to the US government’s ‘suggestion of immunity’ to Modi. The petition was filed by two unnamed victims of the post-Godhra riots and American Justice Center (AJC), a New York-based nonprofit human rights group.

On September 30, the State Department wrote a letter to the Department of Justice, conveying the request of the Indian government to have the case against Modi ‘dismissed on the basis of his immunity’.

The letter was written by Mary McLeod, a State Department Legal Adviser to Joyce R Branda, the Acting Assistant Attorney General, on September 30, the day Modi met with President Barack Obama at the White House.

“This letter recognises the particular importance attached by the United States to obtaining the prompt dismissal of the proceedings against Prime Minister Modi in view of the significant foreign policy implications of such an action,” the State Department said.

In a statement, the AJC argued that ‘Suggestion of Immunity’ filed by Bharara is not binding on the court. “The human rights violations committed by Modi before becoming Prime Minister and as Chief Minister of Gujarat are not immune. US Federal Court has jurisdiction to hold Modi accountable under the Alien Tort Claims Act and Torture Victims Protection Act,” argued Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to the AJC.

Lalit K Jha

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