US court drops indictment against Devyani Khobragade
Posted on Mar 13 2014 | IANS
Washington, March 13 : A US federal court has dismissed the visa fraud charges against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest and subsequent strip-search in New York escalated into a full diplomatic row last year.
US District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled Wednesday that no proceeding by the US government could be heard as Khobragade, being a diplomat, was immune from the court's jurisdiction, The Wasington Post reported.
Khobragade, an Indian consular official in New York, was arrested and strip-searched by the New York federal authorities last December on charges of visa fraud and irregularities in payments to her maid, Sangeeta Richard.
Judge Sheindlin ruled that the Indian government had subsequently changed her status to one with full immunity and the fact this was done Jan 8, a day before she was formally indicted, meant that the indictment was invalid.
Opposing her indictment charges, Khobragade had petitioned that she was "cloaked in diplomatic immunity at the time of her arrest". She was appointed in India's UN mission in New York on Jan 8.
Meanwhile, the court allowed that she could be re-indicted if the prosecutor so chose.
Commenting on the possiblity of Khobragade being slapped with further charges, Daniel N. Arshack, her attorney, said that it would be an "aggressive and unnecessary act".
Khobragade, who left for India in January, is now posted in India's external affairs ministry in New Delhi.