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Modiís Guj riot lawsuit: US welcomes dismissal of lawsuit against Modi

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Washington (Jan. 15, 2015): The US Thursday welcomed the dismissal of a lawsuit against Prime Minister  Modi filed by a rights group for his alleged role in the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, noting that he enjoys immunity as a sitting head of a foreign government.

"We have seen that the complaint brought in Federal District Court against Indian Prime Minister Modi was dismissed, based on the Executive Branch's brief that PM Modi is entitled to immunity as the sitting head of a foreign government," said a spokesperson for the Department of State.

"We are pleased that the court deferred to the determination of the US government," the spokesperson said.

The official said that courts have "consistently dismissed cases against sitting heads of state and heads of government on the basis of their immunity."

Indian-American Attorney Preet Bharara in his submission before the court on behalf of the US government said: "Under customary international law principles accepted by the Executive Branch, a sitting head of state's immunity is based on his status as the incumbent office holder, not his conduct, and it renders the head of state immune from the jurisdiction of the court while he or she is in office, without regard to the content of the complaint."

The court in its ruling dismissing the case went by the argument of Bharara, as reflected in its three page judgment.

"The United States has suggested the immunity of Prime Minister Modi based solely on his status as head of government, and there is no need for the Court to decide whether Prime Minster Modi's alleged actions fall within the act of state doctrine," Bharara had said.

"This case presents no question regarding the proper scope of the act of state doctrine, and the act of state doctrine is not relevant to the Executive's Suggestion of Immunity," Bharara argued.