Entitled to Diplomatic Immunity: Devyani
By Devirupa Mitra | ENS | Published: 14th December 2013 10:40 AM |
Devyani Khobragade, Deputy Consul General in New York, was arrested on Thursday in New York, on allegations made by her former domestic assistant - who’s missing since June - that the officer had not been paying her minimum wages and forced her to make false statements to obtain visa.
When she appeared before the US judge, Devyani said she was entitled to diplomatic immunity, but the Department of Justice contested that it was not applicable as she had employed the domestic help in her personal capacity. Diplomats are allowed to obtain A-3 visas for their domestic help, which requires proof of fair wage.
Khobragade applied for visa for her maid Sangeeta Richard with a wage of $4,500 per month.
The visa application had an employment contract signed by both Khobragade and Sangeeta, which said she would be paid the minimum wage which is an hourly salary of $9.75.
US authorities alleged that Khobragade schooled Sangeeta Richard to sign the employment contract, even though both of them had verbally agreed to payment of only `30,000 per month - which comes to about $3.31 per hour.
The 11-page criminal complaint says Sangeeta alleged that even this orally-agreed salary was not paid in full, when she worked with Devyani from November 2012 to June 2013.A press release issued by the Indian embassy in Washington said Sangeeta Richard was absconding since June.
The Delhi High Court issued an interim injunction in September to restrain Sangeeta from “instituting any actions or proceedings against Dr Khobragade outside India on the terms or conditions of her employment”.
After a Delhi court issued an arrest warrant for Richard, the US government had also been asked to locate her.
To a question on how a diplomat could be unaware of the minimum wage rule in US, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Devyani had taken “judicial recourse” following the disappearance of her domestic assistant.