US court throws out lawsuit against Modi in Gujarat riots case

| Updated on: Jan 15, 2015

A US court here has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Prime Minister Narendra Modi by a rights group for his alleged role in the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, upholding the Obama administration’s stance that he enjoys immunity as a sitting head of a foreign government.

The US District Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York said in the three-page order issued yesterday that “in light of the determination by the Executive Branch that Prime Minister Modi is entitled to immunity as the sitting head of a foreign government, he is immune from the jurisdiction of this Court in this suit.”

Torres said the court considered arguments made by plaintiffs American Justice Centre (AJC) and “finds them to be without merit” and “unpersuasive.”

“The complaint is dismissed,” Torres ruled directing that the case be closed.

In the order, Torres cited a US Supreme Court ruling that says courts cannot deny an immunity which the US government has “seen fit to allow.”

“A court ‘must accept the United States’ suggestion that a foreign head of state is immune from suit — even for acts committed prior to assuming office — ‘as a conclusive determination by the political arm of the Government that the continued (exercise of jurisdiction) interferes with the proper conduct of our foreign relations,’” Torres said in the order citing the apex court’s rulings in similar cases.

AJC did not respond to a query seeking comment on the ruling.

The State Department did not have any immediate comment.

“I don’t. I’m happy to check with my colleagues at Justice and see if we’re saying anything,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters in Washington.

The court ruling comes as Modi prepares to host President Barack Obama, who will be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

The lawsuit was filed by New York—based AJC in September last year, just days before Modi arrived in the US on his maiden visit as Prime Minister to attend the UN General Assembly session and for a meeting with Obama in Washington.

Published on January 24, 2018

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