Washington: A US court here has ruled that former India prime minister Manmohan Singh had "head of state immunity" from claims that he supported violence against Sikhs, but it did not cover his tenure as finance minister.
US District Judge James Boasberg in the District of Columbia Tuesday ruled that Manmohan Singh was entitled to "residual immunity" even after he ceased to be the prime minister as suggested by the US State Department.
US-based rights group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) and one Inderjit Singh had alleged that Manmohan Singh had "tortured and killed Indian Sikhs during his time at the helm of that country's government and, before then, as Finance Minister," the judge noted.
Accepting the State Department suggestion of immunity, the judge ruled that "although he is nolonger a head of state, Singh is entitled to residual immunity for acts taken in his official capacity as Prime Minister."
But because such residual immunity does not cover actions Singh pursued before taking office, however, the allegations stemming from his time as Finance Minister survive."
SFJ and Inderjit Singh had claimed in the 2013 suit that as finance minister between 1991 and 1996, Manmohan Singh "funded several counter insurgency operations in state of Punjab during the 1990s resulting in more than hundred thousand Sikhs being killed extra- judicially by the security forces".
During his tenure as prime minister, Manmohan Singh was accused of being complicit in the torture and killing of hundreds of thousands of Sikhs and for shielding the perpetrators.
Boasberg ruled that US law bars former heads of state from being sued for actions they took while in office, but not for private acts or those taken in prior government posts.
However, "while Singh's alleged acts as Finance Minister are not 'private' per se, they did not occur in the course of his official duties as head of state," Boasberg wrote.