US reviewing immunity for Kamal Nath in 1984 Sikh riots case

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Monday, January 24, 2011

WASHINGTON - The United States is still reviewing whether Indian Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath, who has been summoned by a New York court for his alleged role in the1984 anti-Sikh riots, can be given diplomatic immunity.

“The immunity question remains under review here at the State Department, and we have not made any determination at this point,” the State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley told reporters Monday when asked about a reported query by the Indian embassy here in this regard.

Kamal Nath has been summoned Feb 9 by New York’s Southern district court for a pre-trial conference, according to Gurpatwant S Pannun, Legal Advisor for Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a US based human rights advocacy group, which filed a civil suit against him last April.

“We are following closely a civil complaint involving Minister Kamal Nath,” Crowley said. “There are - this is still a legal process that is unfolding. It’s unclear whether there’s any live action against Minister Nath and what its content might be.”

“I think the plaintiffs have until February 9 to file an amended complaint,” he said.

In April 2010, SFJ along with two individuals filed a law suit against Kamal Nath in the district court under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) & Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) asking the Court to order compensatory and punitive damages against Nath, according to Pannun.

“Alien Tort Claims Act, the law under which trial against Kamal Nath will be held is specifically created to provide remedy and forum to victims of genocide to vindicate their complaints,” he said.

The trial against Kamal Nath “is one such opportunity through which SFJ plans to put on the record of the court evidence related to genocide of Sikhs and Kamal Nath’s role in it,” he said.

Plaintiffs have asked for a “jury trial” and will have the right to call upon survivors and experts on genocide as witnesses to prove that systematic killing of Sikhs in November 1984 was genocide as defined in Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide, Pannun said

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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