1984 anti-Sikh riots: US court issues summons against Manmohan Singh

As Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Washington DC on a four-day visit, a Sikh rights group secured summons against him from a US court in connection with the alleged human rights violations in the counter-insurgency operations in Punjab in the 1990s.

The Sikh for Justice (SFJ), the New York-based rights body, is now planning to file an urgent leave “to effect alternative means of service” that would allow it to deliver the summons to the White House staff and members of Singh’s security team when he is here.

Prime Minister Singh arrived for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

It would be very tough for the SFJ to serve summons to Singh given the tight security around him. There are also procedural difficulties for the SFJ to get the necessary court directions issued for the White House and the Secret Service.

Ravi Batra, the New York-based attorney who represents the Congress Party in a similar case filed against it by the SFJ, termed it as a publicity gimmick.

“SFJ’s ‘red carpet’ welcome, a lawsuit against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the leader of a free, independent and sovereign nation, is headline grabbing while insulting law, decency and common sense,” Batra told PTI.

“American courts have tools to handle an out-of-control litigant, whose main goal is to use the court’s ministerial act of accepting a complaint, with the USD 350 filing fee paid and then automatically issuing a summons, to falsely imply in pre-made press releases that a Court had acted on some merits – when it did no such thing,” Batra said.

The 24-page complaint alleges that Singh as the Finance Minister in early 1990s approved and financed the practice of “cash rewards” to members of security forces for allegedly killing Sikhs through extra judicial means to curb militancy.

The complaint also alleges that during his tenure as the Prime Minister beginning 2004, Singh actively shielded and protected the members of his political party who were allegedly involved in 1984 anti-Sikh riots.