US court seeks govt records about visa to Narendra Modi

Washington: A US federal judge has ordered the State Department to produce all documents by February 2016 related to Obama administration`s decision to lift a ban on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s entry to the US.

“The Department of State will make an initial production of discovery in mid-January 2016, followed by another production of discovery in mid-February 2016,” judge John G. Koeltl of Southern District of New York said in his Dec 9 order.

The next conference in the case will take place on Feb 29, he directed.

Modi`s previously issued tourist visa was revoked in 2005 over his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots when he was chief minister of the state.

However, President Barack Obama was quick to congratulate and invite Modi to the US after his election as Prime Minister in May 2014. Modi has visited the US twice since then.

Modi was the only person ever denied a US visa under the US law on religious freedom. But after his election as Prime Minister, the ban was revoked as heads of government or state are exempt from the law.

In September, US based rights group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) had filed a complaint challenging the failure of the State Department to produce the documents in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records from June 2013 onwards regarding visa and entry to Narendra Modi.

Urging US Court`s intervention, SFJ complaint alleged that “in or around 2005 defendant USDOS revoked previously issued B-2 tourist visa of Narendra Modi under section 212 (a)(2)(G) of the INA because while serving as a foreign government official Modi “was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom rendering him inadmissible to the United States”.

In August last year, SFJ had filed a request under FOIA demanding release of seven key categories of documents relating to the decisions by the Bush and Obama administrations to ban and facilitate Modi`s entry into the US.