A scathing column by Indian journalist Debasish Roy Chowdhury published in the New York Times sheds yet more light on the repressive use of law enforcement agencies and courts as “tools of repression” by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Marking the 75th Anniversary of Independence from Britain, Chowdhury details how the Modi government exploits its near-complete control over the police and other law enforcement agencies, combined with “security and sedition laws” to silence opponents and oppress minorities. Chowdhury notes, “Mr. Modi’s party has turbocharged these tools of repression…”
He explains that the highest levels of the judiciary now work “in lock step with the government” and the Supreme Court judges “fawn over Mr. Modi” while the press is continually “pressured to serve his regime” instead of reporting on the government’s actions. If the press does speak out, Chowdhury explains, “the government arrests journalists who call out acts of hate.”
Modi’s use of state entities to carry out grave abuses of human rights against Muslims and other religious minorities are well documented, and the ruling BJP political party stirs up hatred while vigilante groups often attack minorities and their businesses with little to no recourse. Extremists making up Modi’s political base “now openly threaten the genocide and rape of Muslims…”
Magnitsky Act Petition to Sanction Top Indian Officials
U.S. civil society and leaders are increasingly growing concerned.
Recently, American NGO Frontiers of Freedom submitted a petition under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act “to enact serious sanctions against 11 Indian officials for alleged human rights abuses committed against” Indian-American citizen Ramachandran Viswanathan, the co-founder of Devas.
Read the full petition filed by Frontiers of Freedom here.
The petition was submitted to the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, and requests that the U.S. government implement economic and visa sanctions on 11 of Modi’s top officials for their “attempts to extradite Devas Multimedia’s Ramachandran Viswanathan to India for trial, where he would likely be unlawfully detained and subject to inhumane treatment.”
Matthew D. McGill, lead counsel to Devas shareholders and partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, lauded the filing of the petition:
“The submission of this petition on behalf of Mr. Viswanathan sends a strong message to India: U.S. businesspersons and investors are protected under U.S. and international law, and any attempts to intimidate, harass, or retaliate against them by abusing international organizations and treaties will be met with swift, definitive action. The autocratic perpetrators within the Modi regime will be held accountable for their lawless, thuggish behavior.”
The Modi government, in its desperate campaign to evade paying lawful arbitration awards owed to Devas shareholders, have engaged in an abusive campaign of harassment and transnational repression against Mr. Viswanathan, including unlawful attempts to use the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters between the U.S. and India to “gain intelligence, monitor, question and arrest Mr. Viswanathan” as noted by Frontiers of Freedom.
George Landrith, President of Frontiers of Freedom, in announcing the petition stated, “The actions of the autocratic Indian regime led by Prime Minister Modi are an assault on the rule of law and the rights and freedoms granted to every American. We urge the U.S. government to look past India’s façade and punish, with sanctions, those who seek to violate the rights of Mr. Viswanathan.”
Law360 writes further “Indian officials have also asked Interpol to issue a “red notice” asking worldwide officials to arrest Viswanathan, which means that the satellite company founder cannot leave the U.S. without the fear of being detained…”
All of this behavior is very clearly a violation of Mr. Viswanathan’s rights and freedoms. Frontiers of Freedom reiterates that the Modi government’s actions are simply retaliation and intended to “stop the efforts of Mr. Viswanathan’s company he co-founded, Devas, from enforcing a billion dollar arbitration judgment against the Indian government.”
The 11 Indian Government Officials Named by Frontiers of Freedom
- Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister (May 2019 – Present)
- Rakesh Sasibhushan, Chairman of Antrix Corporation Limited (June 2016 – Present)
- Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General (October 2018 – Present)
- Hemant Gupta, Judge, Supreme Court of India (November 2018 – Present)
- V. Ramasubramanian, Judge, Supreme Court of India (September 2019 – Present)
- Judge Chandra Shekhar, Special Judge (PC Act), New Delhi
- Ashish Pareek, Deputy Superintendent of Police, CBI, New Delhi
- Sanjay Kumar Mishra, Director of Enforcement, Enforcement Directorate
- R. Rajesh, Assistant Director, Enforcement Directorate
- N. Venkatraman, Additional Solicitor General of India
- A. Sadiq Mohamed Naijnar, Deputy Director of the Enforcement Directorate
The Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 along with Executive Order 13818 authorizes the U.S. government to sanction foreign government officials worldwide who have been deemed serious human rights offenders. The sanction would freeze the offenders’ assets and block them from entering the United States. Frontiers of Freedom collaborated with Mr. Viswanathan’s counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, as well as Mr. Viswanathan himself to compile and submit the petition.
Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Exposes Modi’s Unlawful Actions against Devas Founder
The Modi government’s abuse of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters between the U.S. and India, and of the Interpol Red Notice process, more broadly, is creating deep concern in Washington.
In July, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland raising concerns that India (and other foreign governments) are abusing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) and the Interpol Red Notice Process.
This has consequences for the Modi government’s illegal persecution of Devas co-founder Ramachandran Viswanathan. In his letter to AG Garland, Senator Grassley highlights how “India has improperly requested that Interpol issue a Red Notice against Ramachandran Viswanathan, a U.S. citizen.”
U.S. Senator Grassley is ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice (DOJ). Grassley continues by emphasizing the critical role that DOJ plays in ensuring American citizens who are business entrepreneurs are protected from unlawful attempts by foreign governments to “undermine the rule of law” and “retaliate against adverse litigants in international disputes.”
Mr. Viswanathan has experienced firsthand the desperate, illegal attempts by the Modi government to abuse Interpol Red Notices and harass him for enforcing arbitration awards against India. These attempts undoubtedly amount to a retaliatory campaign of transnational repression.
Finally, Grassley writes how the Justice Department themselves have identified the failure of foreign governments like Modi’s to ensure the MLAT requests “met the minimum standards of evidence required under U.S. law” and cited a recent report that indicated India has committed significant misuse of the Red Notice process.
Read the full letter from Senator Grassley here.
U.S. Authorities Unresponsive to India’s Requests
Recently, India’s Public Prosecutor admitted before the Special Court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that U.S. authorities have been unresponsive to requests from Indian law enforcement agencies to execute warrants against Mr. Viswanathan.
The comments from Senator Grassley only strengthen the case for the U.S. government to ignore the bogus and unlawful attempts by India to extradite an American citizen, Mr. Viswanathan, and to prosecute him before a kangaroo court appointed by Modi.