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Devyani Wins Dismissal of Indictment in the US Court
Mar 14, 2014

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, charged in New York with visa fraud and making false statements about a domestic worker she employed has won dismissal of a federal indictment, ending a chapter in an dispute that frayed US-Indian diplomatic relations.

US District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan ruled that Devyani, who was India's deputy consul-general in New York, had diplomatic immunity when she sought on January 9 to dismiss the indictment, and thus could not be prosecuted.

Prosecutors accused Devyani of making Sangeeta Richard, her housekeeper and nanny, work 100-hour weeks at a salary of just over $1 an hour, far below the legal minimum US wage of $7.25 an hour. They argued that the indictment should stand because Devyani did not have diplomatic immunity either when she was arrested, or now given that she has left the country.

District Judge said, however, Devyani had that immunity on January 9 when the indictment was issued, having the day before been named a counsellor to India's mission to the United Nations. Even if Devyani had no immunity at the time of her arrest and has none now, her acquisition of immunity during the pendency of proceedings mandates dismissal. The government may not proceed on an indictment obtained when Devyani was immune from the jurisdiction of the court. District Judge also lifted Devyani's bail and said open arrest warrants based on the indictment must be thrown out.

Devyani at the time of her arrest on December 12, is now working for foreign affairs ministry in Delhi, having left the United States in January. Federal prosecutors have not said whether they will seek a new indictment. But as the court indicated in its decision, and as Devyani has conceded, there is currently no bar to a new indictment against her for her alleged criminal conduct.

Devyani's arrest and a subsequent strip-search provoked an outcry in India, setting off reprisals against US diplomats and the removal of some security barriers near the US embassy there. It also led to the postponement of trips by US officials and business executives to India, with which the United States was working to strengthen ties.

Many Indians thought the case reflected US arrogance and that its relations with India could be taken for granted.


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