US court dismisses lawsuit against Sonia Gandhi

US District Judge Brian Cogan granted Sonia Gandhi’s motion to dismiss the complaint filed by Sikhs for Justice or SFJ for 'lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim'

A US court in New York has dismissed a lawsuit against Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case filed by a Sikh group, ruling that she cannot be held 'personally liable' but did not bar the group from bringing fresh litigation against her.


In a 13-page order, US District Judge Brian Cogan granted Gandhi’s motion to dismiss the complaint filed by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) for 'lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim'.


He, however, denied the request by Gandhi that the court should impose an 'anti-suit injunction' prohibiting SFJ from bringing further lawsuits.


Cogan said the court cannot consider Gandhi to be personally liable based upon the allegations of extra-judicial killings or torture when she only became Congress president in 1998, more than a decade after the 1984 riots.


He said the anti-Sikh riots occurred almost 30 years before SFJ and the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit, and 'the statute of limitations poses an obvious hurdle for plaintiffs'.


Responding to the order, Gandhi’s attorney Ravi Batra told PTI that justice has been “well served” as SFJ’s “ill-conceived merit-less publicity-case” has been dismissed.


However, SFJ legal advisor GS Pannun said that since the court has not granted Gandhi’s plea to bar SFJ from filing further lawsuits relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the group would “continue to hold the Congress leaders accountable before US courts for their role in organising systematic killing of Sikhs.”


Students’ death: How parents can take authorities to task

Could clear loudspeaker warnings, prominent caution signs or vigilance about the tour itinerary have averted the tragic death of 24 students in the Beas River? Here is an RTI guideline for parents to procure more information into such deaths

With every passing day since 9th June, when 24 students of VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in Hyderabad and one tour operator were washed away in the River Beas off the Kulu-Manali Highway, it is becoming clearer that authorities of the Larji Dam Project run by the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board (HPSEB) cannot wash their hands of this tragedy so easily. Nor can the district administration, which allegedly did not have the required rescue equipment and Quick Response Teams (QRTs) in place to immediately launch rescue operations. Also, college authorities need to answer on the nature of the tour, which was officially termed an 'industrial study tour' as alleged by the parents.


The latest news is that, despite more than 75 personnel of the National Disaster Management Board being engaged in intense search for the bodies, only six bodies have been recovered so far. As per news reports, the parents of the 24 students (one of the dead is the tour manager) who have unfortunately lost their lives, have decided to unanimously file a suit against the HPSEB authorities as well as the College authorities.


It is a good move from the parents’ side, not to let the alleged culprits go scot free. The least they can do is to ensure that the public authorities are punished under the law and the government immediately puts in place stringent norms for release of water from dams.


We have seen in the Korea ship disaster where over 170 students were killed last month, when the ship they were sailing in capsized, the captain was immediately arrested and one of the highest constitutional authorities resigned. Here, three officials of the Lajri dam have merely been suspended.


So, how could parents of these 25 students get armed with information to fight a solid battle? Procuring information under Right to Information (RTI) Act in order to strengthen their case could play a crucial role in their campaign. Here are a few guidelines:


  • • Information should be sought from HPSEB, which is the public authority and Larji Dam is under its command


  • • Information should be procured also from the Mandi district administration regarding rescue operations and safety measures for tourists


  • • Information should be sought from the VNR College authorities about the nature of the study tour and guidelines involved for the faculty and students in the tour


  • • Information from all these three public authorities, should be sought under Section 7 (1) which states that the applicant should get information within 48 hours (Provided that where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the request.)


  • • Information to be asked for from the HPSEB would be:

  1. Copy of the rules and regulations of release of water from the Larji Dam

  2. Copy of warning signals to be issued to public before release of water or/and internal correspondence pertaining to the same

  3. Who are the officers responsible for release of water from the Larji dam

  4. Action, if any, taken since 2011, regarding negligence of these officers in release water

  5. Copy of the rules of action against criminal negligence of safety in release of water from the Larji dam

  6. Correspondence of citizens and citizen organizations regarding complaints of release of water that is threatening the lives of nearby residents and tourists the number of times, with timings, dates, days and months since January 2014 when water was released downstream into the Larji Dam. Please furnish this information, month-wise.

  7. Preliminary Report of the June 9 tragedy wherein 24 students including the tour manager were swept away by sudden gush of water that was released.

  8. Copy of the rules and regulations under which the affected families whose children were drowned can seek compensation;

  • • Information to be asked for, from the Mandi district administration:

  1. Copy of the Disaster Management Plan Details of the Quick Response Team (QRTs) in terms of the number of personnel, the number and the nature of equipment to rescue victims swept away in the river Rules and codes for QRT personnel;

  2. copies of reports of all such rescue operations from 1 January 2014

  3. Any action taken report on negligence in rescue operations since January 2014

  4. Copies of reports of conflict with residents who protested against sudden release of water

  • • Information to be asked for, from the VNR College authorities:

  1. Copy of the document which sanctions such a study tour

  2. What was the name and nature of the study tour which ended in a tragedy, with details of the entire day to day itinerary;

  3. copy of rules and regulations for students and faculty attending this study tour to Manali

  4. Copy of Preliminary Report by the college, if any, after the 9th June tragedy

  5. Names of officials/faculty responsible for deviation in the Manali tour, if any.

  • • Parents should also register online complaints on the grievance cell website: Log on to . Locate the appropriate authority and lodge a complaint. The website is very citizen friendly.



(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) 



suresh dash

3 years ago

Salute to money life for guidance and eye opener to the bereaved families.

Yerram Raju Behara

3 years ago

This is a very good guide to those who would like to fight legally.
All industrial tours have some entertainment component and therefore we can't fault on the students visiting or allowed to visit the beautiful riverside spots. But what the tour guide and the accompanying teacher/lecturer could have done is to prevent the boys and girls from playing with cameras in the bed of the river on the other side of the gates.
Even if the boys and girls had been told not to do so, in their frenzy mood of fun and frolic they would not listen!
A disaster occurred and untold misery to the parents and the surviving students who could not in their lifetime forget the misery and no financial compensation howsoever large can mitigate it.

Sreekanth Yelicherla

3 years ago

This is what happens in so called Industrial tours in Engg. colleges: Colleges can give leave if the tour is of Industrial visit sort and so the students 'plan' a tour. They call it Industrial tour and it is not surprising that these tours will always be nearer to such places like Kulu, Manali etc. They just identify some company, send them an email for a visit for few hours and collect money from students, make a trip. Readers might get a question on how the accompanying professors didn't warn in this case. Everyone knows the intention of such tours and they will be more than happy to have a tour too.

Ratilal Shah

3 years ago

I feel the officers who released water from the dam without warning the visiting tourist students should be charged with criminal negligence of duty leading to death of 24 students.

Indian market trends

The Sensex and the Nifty rose 1% each during the fortnight ended 5 June 2014. ML Mega-cap Index rose 2%. ML Micro-cap Index and ML Large-cap Index advanced 4% each. ML Small-cap Index and ML Mid-cap Index advanced 6% each.



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