NEW DELHI: A New York court has ordered Narendra Modi to answer allegations of “attempted genocide” over deadly anti-Muslim riots, reports said Friday, as he began his first US visit as India’s prime minister.
The complaint relates to an outbreak of anti-Muslim rioting in 2002 in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where Modi served as chief minister before he was elected prime minister in May.
Lawyers for rights group the American Justice Center filed a civil case on Thursday seeking damages from Modi for what they call “attempted genocide”, according to a copy of the petition obtained by The Hindu newspaper.
“It is clear that justice for the plaintiffs cannot be obtained in India because of the condoning of this genocidal act of state-sanctioned terrorism,” reads the petition, issued on behalf of victims of the riots.
The Hindu said the court had issued a summons ordering him to respond to the charges within 21 days.
Modi, a Hindu nationalist, was refused a US visa in 2005 over the allegations, which he has always denied.
He is due to arrive in New York later Friday, where he will address the UN General Assembly before heading to Washington for talks with President Barack Obama.
A copy of the one-page summons, which was obtained by the Rediff website, named Modi as the defendant, describing him as “a national and citizen of India, Prime Minister and ex Chief Minister of Gujarat”.
“A lawsuit has been filed against you,” said the summons, which was signed by the clerk of the court.
“Within 21 days after service of this summons on you… you must serve on the plaintiff an answer to the attached complaint.
“If you fail to respond, judgment by default will be entered against you for the relief demanded in the complaint.”
Although the American Justice Center was named as one of the four plaintiffs, the other three were only identified as “Asif, Jane Doe and John Doe”.
No one in Modi’s office was immediately available for comment, but India’s Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government would examine the summons.
“I don’t know it. I am only hearing it from you. We will examine it,” he told the Press Trust of India news agency.
Modi has pledged national unity, but he remains tainted by the riots on his watch, which left at least 1,000 people dead.
A court investigation found he had no case to answer, but some members of religious minorities still fear a rise in communal tensions under a Modi government.