Libel suit filed in US for ads against Sonia

April 8th, 2008 - 11:23 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New York, April 8 (IANS) The Indian National Overseas Congress (INOC) has filed a $100 million libel lawsuit against three people associated with the US wing of the Bharatiaya Janata Party (BJP), for allegedly defaming Congress president Sonia Gandhi during her visit here last October. The lawsuit by INOC (US), which is part of the Indian National Congress, filed in the New York State Supreme Court named the three members of the Forum for Saving Gandhi’s Heritage - Narain Kataria, Arish Sahani, and Bharat Barai.

The Forum, a newly formed organisation comprising several current and past members of the Overseas Friends of the BJP, had taken out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times as well as in some Indian ethnic papers in the US, accusing Sonia Gandhi of violating many laws of India with impunity from the time she married Rajiv Gandhi, former prime minister, and “looting the country”.

She was in New York in connection with the UN General Assembly’s events Oct 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday that the world body decided to observe as the International Day of Non-Violence.

The INOC, filing the suit through attorney firm Karasik & Associates, has demanded judgement against the three and an award of “actual, compensatory, special and punitive damages in the amount of $100 million” in addition to other costs and disbursements deemed fit by the court.

The lawsuit, filed last month, is not at the behest of, or in consultation with, Sonia Gandhi or the Congress party in India, Surinder Malhotra, president of the INOC, told IANS.

“When my leader is being defamed, it is my moral duty to protect her honour,” he said, adding that the controversial ad resorted to personal attacks.

The lawsuit noted that there is no legal entity known as ‘Forum for Saving Gandhi’s Heritage’. A website of the organisation was floated seemingly for the purpose of running a campaign against Sonia Gandhi, who the Forum felt was not fit to represent India at an event commemorating the Mahatma.

The lawsuit seeks to pierce the corporate veil regarding the entities variously named, including the Forum, “in order to reach the responsible malefactors”.

Kataria, who heads the India American Intellectuals Forum, which takes up various Hindutva causes such as its recent campaign against Christie’s in New York auctioning M.F. Husain’s paintings, has denied any knowledge of the INOC complaint.

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