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Sonia snubs US court, says won’t give passport copy

Sonia Gandhi has declined to provide a copy of her passport to a US court as documentary evidence in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, citing refusal by the Indian government on grounds of personal security and confidentiality.

US district judge Brian Cogan had last month asked Gandhi to “provide a copy of her passport, showing her most recent entry and exit stamps into and out of the United States” to enable determination of her presence in the US in September last year.

The court order had come on a lawsuit filed by the rights group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) which had claimed that it had served summons on Gandhi when she allegedly visited Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in the city for a medical check-up in September last year. The lawsuit against Gandhi hinges on the issue of whether she was served summons on September 9 as the group claims. Sonia claims she was not present in the US during that time.

The SFJ has sought compensatory and punitive damages from Gandhi for her alleged role in “shielding and protecting” Congress leaders including Kamal Nath, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler from prosecution for their alleged role in the 1984 riots.

Sonia’s attorney Ravi Batra on Monday submitted before the court that his client has “nothing to hide”. Batra handed over to court as exhibit a letter dated April 5 signed by Gandhi to him in which she states that “in matters of disclosure of my travels, which are contained in the passport document, the government of India has informed me that they would not permit such a disclosure.”

“However, as I have nothing to hide, I voluntarily relinquish the plea of lack of personal jurisdiction. I may add that the present submission is without prejudice to the plea of want of jurisdiction in relation to the subject matter.”

Since Sonia has conceded the court’s personal jurisdiction by withdrawing objection to service of summons, the court will move to subject matter jurisdiction to hear the charges, SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said.

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