Khobragade Vs. U.S.


Khobragade Vs. U.S.  is a high-level case involving three Indians and two states. The three Indians involved are Khobragade, the diplomat, her maid and Preet Bharara, the attorney. The two states involved are the United States of America and the Democratic Republic of India– two of the largest democracies of the world.

Dr. Khobragade is a deputy consul of India in New York. She also holds the additional title of diplomat for women’s affairs. She is an elite diplomat of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), 1999 batch.

Khobragade in spite of all her credentials and education, though, forgot one golden rule that when in Rome do as the Romans do. She mistook New York for Delhi perhaps , a mistake which has landed her in deep trouble. She holds that she is being blackmailed and harassed by her ex-maid.

Khobragade was arrested on Tuesday Dec., 12 by NYPD officers for visa fraud and making false statement. She was presented before a magistrate and later released on furnishing bail bonds worth $250,000.

She had brought a maid from India on the contractual salary of $ 4,500 a month but once in America under duress made her sign a contract by which she only paid her around $ 6oo a month . In the case titled U.S. vs. Khobragade  13-mj-02870 registered against her in Manhattan District Court, she is charged for one count of fraud and one count of  making false statement. If she is convicted she faces a maximum of 15 years in jail. 10-years for visa fraud and 5-years for making a false statement.

Bharara who is the attorney defending the maid holds that,“(His) Office’s sole motivation in this case, as in all cases, is to uphold the rule of law, protect victims, and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law — no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are.” Furthermore according to him, “One wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?”

While Daniel Arshack, the attorney of Khobragade insists Dr. Khobragade has diplomatic imminity and views the incident, “a significant error in judgment and an embarrassing failure of U.S. international protocol.” This is so because Khobragade insists that she was handcuffed in front of her daughter, strip and cavity searched as though she was a common criminal. In addition she was locked up with drug addicts. A charge denied by the NYPD. According to Nikki Credic-Barrett, U.S. Marshals spokeswoman,” Khobragade did not undergo a cavity search but did go through a strip search.”  A cavity search includes visual inspection of body cavities, including the nose, mouth, genitals and anus, without intrusion.  A common practice cavity searches have come under heavy criticism by civil liberty and human rights groups as they consider this practice, “degrading and unnecessary.” Further the spokeswoman added that the NYPD officers involved allowed over two hours of telephonic communication to Khobragade in the police car, offered her coffee and food,  amenities not afforded to others in such situations.

John Kerry has also called Shivshankar Memon , Indian national security adviser and regretted the unfortunate incident. India is not satisfied and wants an unconditional apology by the U.S.. In addition all diplomatic privileges of U.S. diplomats in India have been revoked. The security barricades in front of the American Embassy in Delhi have been removed in protest. Plus, they have been asked to furnish all the details of payments they make to the Indian staff and the teachers in the American school.

Effigies have been burned and the American flag trampled under feet by the demonstrators in different cities of India including the capital Delhi. If  the present controversy is not resolved soon the strained relations between the allies will worsen. Khobragade Vs. U.S. will damage the trade and defense ties, as well.

India through its Foreign Minister, Salman Khurshid has asked the U.S. to drop the Khobragade  Vs. U.S. to which Kerry nor any other government functionary has commented. In a related development Khobragade has been transferred to Indian permanent mission at the United Nations. This move by the Indian government is seen as a step to help Khobragade get the full diplomatic immunity in retrospect which she does not enjoy as a consular. The spokeswoman of the U.S. Department of State, Marie Harf has informed the media that no such notification has been received by them yet.

Whatever the outcome of the case titled Khobragade Vs. U.S., one thing is clear that there is tremendous pressure on the judiciary and this case will go a long way in showing the independence of U.S. judiciary vis-a-vis the executive.  There is no doubt that decision in Khobragade Vs. U.S. will be a landmark in U.S. judicial history.

By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada

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