A federal court in New York issued a summons to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, responding to a lawsuit filed by a human rights group, which alleged his complicity in 2002 riots of in the state of Gujarat, according to media reports Friday.
The summons, issued in response to a lawsuit filed by the New York-based American Justice Center, came just as Modi began his much touted five-day trip to the U.S. during which he is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and many corporate leaders.
The court reportedly said that Modi has to respond to the summons within a period of 21 days. However, since Modi currently enjoys immunity as the head of a state, it is unlikely to have a concrete effect on his trip.
Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the Indian ministry of external affairs dismissed the lawsuit as “frivolous and malicious” and called the allegations baseless.
“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,” Akbaruddin said, in a statement released Friday. “It is unfortunate that vested interests are raking up the matter only to vitiate the atmosphere during the visit.”
The lawsuit, which was filed at the U.S. Federal Court for the Southern District of New York, reportedly alleges that Modi, who was the chief minister of the state of Gujarat in 2002 when riots broke out between the majority Hindus and minority Muslim community, was responsible for extrajudicial killings, “organized violence, large-scale displacement of members of the Muslim-minority population, and the continuing denial of justice,” according a report by The New York Times.
Modi has consistently denied any role in the violence and India's Supreme Court has also cleared him of all charges. However, the U.S. government, believing that Modi did not do enough to prevent the escalation of violence during the riots, had put him under a visa ban in 2005.
Modi was formally invited to visit the U.S. by Obama only after his party won a landslide victory in the Indian elections in May.