NEW YORK- India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “ring-fenced” as for the summons issued against him by a New York court for his alleged role in the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat when he was the state’s Chief Minister.
“Let me start by stating very clearly that the Indian sovereign representative is ring-fenced. There is no issue of any one serving any summons on India’s sovereign representative. Let’s make it very clear. He is ring-fenced. There will not be such issues. I think, the US has also clarified that,” said Syed Akbaruddin, Spokesperson for India’s External Affairs Ministry.
On September 25, US Federal Court for the Southern District of New York issued summons to India’s Prime Minister in a civil lawsuit filed by the New York-based American Justice Centre (AJC), a non-profit human rights organisation, along with two survivors of the post-Godhra pogrom.
As per the court’s directive, Modi has to respond to the summons within 21 days after it is served on him.
However, the summons are not expected to have any substantial effect as Modi enjoys ‘head of state immunity’, established under international law.
Earlier in response to a question regarding the court summons, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal said, “We are aware through press reports about the lawsuit in the federal district court of New York. We can’t comment specifically on the case, but as a general legal policy, we would like to point out that sitting heads of government enjoy immunity from legal actions and cannot be personally delivered summons.”
“Sitting heads of state also enjoy immunity from legal summons and actions while they are attending the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York,” she added.
On this issue, Akbaruddin had previously said, “This case is a frivolous and malicious attempt to distract attention from the visit of the Prime Minister to the United States General Assembly and a bilateral summit with the President of the United States.”
However, he also mentioned that a proper procedure to respond to the summons was under way by saying, “As far as issue of that process that has been started, let me assure you we will handle that procedurally and action is underway on that. But make no mistake that the Indian sovereign representative is ring-fenced.”
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