Withdrawal of libel suit for Sonia ad not a defeat: Overseas Congress

October 6th, 2008 - 8:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew York, Oct 6 (IANS) The Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC) has withdrawn the $100 million libel suit relating to an ad in New York Times last year attacking Sonia Gandhi, but does not consider it a defeat.In its case against Hindu leaders Narain Kataria and Arish Sahani, and Indo Caribbean Council, the INOC, USA, an arm of Indian Indian National Congress, served a Notice of Discontinuance to Justice Emily Jane Goodman of the Supreme Court of New York. The stipulation was agreed to by the two parties in the court Oct 2, the day the hearing in the case was scheduled.

“The Notice of Discontinuance tantamounts to an unconditional surrender by the Congress,” Narain Kataria, president of Indian American Intellectuals Forum, said in a press release.

Not true, countered Surinder Malhotra, who as president of INOC had moved the court.

“The withdrawal should not be construed as a defeat of the case and we are considering re-filing the case,” he told IANS.

“The merits of the libel case were not discussed in court, which felt INOC or me were not the aggrieved party,” he added.

The plaintiff’s lack of locus standi was also the ground on which INOC’s similar case in a New Jersey court against Sunanda Thali, Satyanarayana Dosapati and Mahatma Gandhi International Foundation was dismissed by the judge earlier.

Malhotra said he was consulting Congress party on the next step. “Our case is strong, because The New York Times has apologised to INOC and Congress for ‘factual error’ in the ad,” he contended.

INOC had filed the two lawsuits alleging that those who put out the advertisement in The Times on Oct 6, 2007 defamed Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress party and chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Front.

The ad in Times followed Sonia Gandhi’s visit to New York in connection with the United Nations’ first observance of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, Oct 2, as the International Day of Non-violence. The ad was also published in some Indian community papers in the US.

The advertisement protested the choice of Sonia Gandhi to speak at the UN, claiming she was not a true representative of Gandhian values.

“Sonia Maino Gandhi is not related to Mahatma Gandhi. She is attempting to misappropriate his name for political mileage and international legitimacy,” the advertisement stated, accusing her and her family of many acts of omission and commission.

Commenting on the withdrawal of the case in New York, Kataria said: “The Right of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment of American Constitution has been upheld by the judges and the sinister designs of enemies of freedom of speech, actuated by the malicious desire to muzzle the voice of free speech, truth, and vilify the defendants, have been nipped in the bud.”

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