Shinde, Rahul decline to meet US delegation

New Delhi, Dec 17 : Following reports of ill-treatment of Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade by the New York Police, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday reportedly refused to meet a US Congressional delegation.

According to latest reports, Khobragade, who was arrested for alleged visa fraud and handcuffed in public view last week, was allegedly stripped and searched at a police station in New York.

She was also allegedly kept in a lockup with common criminals and drug addicts.

The U.S. Department of State has said Khobragade does not enjoy immunity from US laws.

"Under the Vienna convention on consular relations, the Indian Deputy Consul General enjoys immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions," said a spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State.

"We are handling this incident through law enforcement channels. We have a long-standing partnership with India, and we expect that that partnership will continue," the spokesperson said.

India on Friday said the arrest of the senior Indian diplomat in USA for alleged visa fraud was unacceptable.

Khobragade, 39, was arrested in New York for alleged visa fraud but was later released after furnishing a bond of 250,000 USD, officials said on Thursday.

According to reports and an Indian embassy statement, Khobragade was arrested by the US police while she was dropping her daughter in school on Dec 12, but released in the evening same day.

Khobragade is the Deputy Consul General in the Indian Consulate in New York.

Reacting to the incident, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson SyedAkbaruddin told media: "Dr. Devyani Khobragade is a diplomat who is in the US in pursuance of her duties and hence is entitled to the courtesy due to a diplomat in the country of her work. She is also a young mother of two small children. We are shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the US authorities. We have taken this up forcefully with the US Government through our Embassy in Washington."

"We are also reiterating in no uncertain terms to the US Embassy here that this kind of treatment to one of our diplomats is absolutely unacceptable. The Ministry of External Affairs is working to resolve the matter at the earliest," he said.

Akbaruddin said: "As regards the facts of the case, our Embassy in Washington has put out a press release and these are available,as we perceive them. If there are issues of a legal nature, these will be resolved separately. And you would appreciate that at this stage I would not be in a position to go into the legal issues if there are any. But as far as we are concerned, this sort of behaviour towards an Indian diplomat is completely unacceptable."

India summoned US ambassador to India Nancy Powell over the issue.

Akbaruddin said the treatment meted to the Indian diplomat was 'unacceptable'.

"We will take issues of legal nature separately but there is no justification or acceptability of what has happened this morning to a young Indian diplomat who was there to drop her children in school. This is simply not acceptable to us," he said.

Reports said Khobragade was even handcuffed in public for allegedly making false statements on a visa application for an Indian who worked for her.

Reports said her arrest followed after it was apparently found that he falsified documents on the babysitter of her child and her housekeeper who was working at her place.

The Indian Embassy in USA earlier issued a statement on the arrest of Khobragade.

"We were informed that Deputy Consul General of India in New York, Dr. Devyani Khobragade, was taken into custody by law enforcement authorities in New York in the morning of December 12, 2013 while she was dropping her daughter at school. Dr. Khobragade was later released that same evening," said the Indian Embassy in USA.

"Action was apparently taken against Dr Khobragade on the basis of allegations raised by the officer's former India-based domestic assistant, Ms Sangeeta Richard, who has been absconding since June this year. In this context the Delhi High Court had issued an-interim injunction in September to restrain Ms Richard from instituting any actions or proceedings against Dr Khobragade outside India on the terms or conditions of her employment."

"The US Government had subsequently been requested to locate Ms Richard and facilitate the service of an arrest warrant, issued by the Metropolitan Magistrate of the South District Court in New Delhi under Sections 387, 420 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code.

"The Embassy of India in Washington DC had immediately conveyed its strong concern to the U.S. Government over the action taken against DrKhobragade. The US side have been urged to resolve the matter with due sensitivity, taking into account the existing Court case in India that has already been brought to their attention by the Government of India, and the Diplomatic status of the officer concerned," the statement said.

--IBNS (Posted on 17-12-2013)

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