Ahead of Obama visit, US court dismisses rights case against PM

A New York court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of failing to control the 2002 Gujarat riots, on the ground that Modi – once declared 'persona non grata' by the US – on the ground that he is now a head of government and therefore entitled to immunity from prosecution.

In dismissing the case filed by human rights group American Justice Centre (AJC), US District Judge Analisa Torres upheld the US Department of State's determination regarding immunity for the PM.

The AJC filed the lawsuit against Modi on the eve of his visit to the US last year, alleging that Modi did not do enough to control riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002 where over 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.

The Indian Supreme Court has already cleared Modi of complicity in the violence.

The US had revoked the PM's visa in 2005 when he was chief minister of Gujarat, but after Modi was elected to Parliament in May last year, the tune changed - he was invited to the White House by President Obama.

The judge dismissed the plaintiffs' argument that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provided immunity only to foreign states and not to individual government officials.

The dismissal of the case comes ahead of President Barack Obama's second trip to India to be the chief guest for Republic Day celebrations.

A "sitting head of state's immunity from jurisdiction is based on the Executive Branch's determination of official immunity without regard to the specific conduct alleged," the bench ruled.

The AJC had filed the lawsuit against Modi under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 and Alien Tort Statute in September.