India has informed the United States that Devyani Khobragade was accredited to the United Nations as a member of the country's delegation to the general assembly before her arrest in a visa fraud case.
"We have been advised by the Government of India that Dr Khobragade was notified to the United Nations as a member of India's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in September. We are currently looking into the matter," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told PTI on Thursday.
The assertion by the Indian government that Khobragade was part of the Indian delegation to the UN beginning September, sources said would grant her full diplomatic immunity and thus any arrest would be considered a violation of the Vienna Convention.
With the latest revelation, it has emerged that Khobragade enjoyed full diplomatic immunity including from personal arrest and detention on December 12 when she was taken into custody by the US authorities in the visa fraud case.
39-year-old Khobragade, who was posted as deputy consul general in New York, was also accredited as an "Advisor to the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations" by the UN w.e.f. 26th August 2013 and her status as an Advisor was valid until December 31, 2013. The accreditation was for the UN General Assembly 2013, sources said in New Delhi.
Under the "Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations", Article 4 Section 11A specifies "Immunities from personal arrest or detention and from the seizure of their personal baggage" of all representatives of members to the UN and further the article specifies that the expression "Representative" shall be deemed to include all Delegates, Deputy Delegates, Advisors, Technical Experts and Secretaries of delegations.
"Her arrest, therefore, on December 12th 2013 was contrary to her status on that date," sources said.
The 1999-batch IFS officer was arrested on December 12 on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richard.
The diplomat was released on a $250,000 bond after being charged with visa fraud.
Subsequent revelations that she was strip searched and held with criminals triggered a row between the two sides with India downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.
Image: Devyani Khobragde
Photograph: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com