Washington, Sep 26 :
Ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark visit, the US Friday made clear that as head of government, he enjoys “immunity and personal inviolability” and no US court summons can be served on him.
Senior administration officials previewing the visit told reporters that they were aware of a law suit filed against Modi by a human rights group in a New York court for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots as state chief minister.
While they could not comment on the case, officials said “sitting heads of government enjoy immunity and also personal inviolability” which means no court papers can be served on them during their stay in the US.
All heads of delegation to the United Nations also enjoy similar immunity, officials said.
Modi is set to address the UN general assembly Saturday before heading to Washington for bilateral summit meetings with President Barack Obama on Sep 29 and 30.
The New York-based American Justice Centre (AJC) had Thursday obtained summons against Modi from the US Federal Court for the southern district of New York in a suit filed with two survivors of what it called the “horrific and organized violence of Gujarat 2002”.
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the ministry of external affairs spokesperson slammed the suit as a “frivolous and malicious attempt to distract attention” from Modi’s visit to the UN and his summit with Obama.
The spokesperson said the “allegations in the case are baseless and similar to other such allegations made in the past against the prime minister. A Supreme Court of India-monitored investigation has comprehensively examined and dismissed these allegations as baseless”.
“It is unfortunate that vested interests are raking up the matter only to vitiate the atmosphere during the visit,” he said.
Sikhs for Justice, another human rights group, which plans to try Modi in a “Citizens’ Court” in a park in front of the White House on Sep 30, has routinely obtained such summons against visiting Indian leaders, including then prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.
Yet another group, Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) plans to show Modi black flags when he heads for the Indian-American community’s public reception at the Madison Square Garden in mid-town Manhattan Sep 28.