India welcomes dismissal of charges against Devyani
New Delhi: India has termed the dismissal of visa fraud charges by a US court against senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest and strip-search had triggered a diplomatic row between the two countries, as “good as far as it goes” . “We have seen the judgement related to the indictment of 9 January. It is good as far as it goes,” a spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said. He said the lawyers would meet to “examine it carefully before we are able to respond substantially and in more detail”.
Khobragade, who was India’s deputy consul-general in New York, was arrested on 12 December outside her children’s school. She has won dismissal of the indictment against her for visa fraud, with a US judge ruling she had full diplomatic immunity. However, prosecutors are not barred from bringing new charges in future. Reacting to the US court verdict, her father Uttam Khobragade said, “They tried to trap Devyani with a false complaint against her. I thank the Indian government and the Indians for their cooperation and help. She will go back to America with full diplomatic immunity”. US District Judge Shira Scheindlin said in her 14-page order that “it is undisputed” that Khobragade acquired full diplomatic immunity at 5:47 pm on 8 January after the US State Department approved her accreditation as a counselor to India’s mission to the United Nations. While the indictment was returned on 9 January, Khobragade had the immunity till she departed from the US for India on the evening of 9 January and so the prosecutors cannot proceed with the current indictment. “Khobragade’s motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground of diplomatic immunity is granted. Khobragade’s conditions of bail are terminated, and her bond is exonerated. It is ordered that any open arrest warrants based on this indictment must be vacated,” Scheindlin said in her 14-page order, capping months of unprecedented diplomatic tensions between the US and India. “On 9 January, immediately following the return of the indictment, Khobragade appeared before the court through counsel and moved to dismiss the case. Because the court lacked jurisdiction over her at that time, and at the time the indictment was returned, the motion must be granted,” the judge said ordering that the motion and the case be closed. US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office had argued that Khobragade, 39, was not immune from her December 12 arrest on charges of visa fraud and making false statements about the visa application of her domestic help Sangeeta Richard. Khobragade’s arrest on visa fraud charges had triggered a row between the two countries with India retaliating by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.