Devyani Khobragade, deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York, who was arrested two weeks ago on changes of allegedly submitting fraudulent documents in support of her maid and babysitter to the US State Department, will have to appear in court on January 13.
“There is no court appearance Monday as has been reported in newspapers. The date has been Monday but it has been cancelled. She will appear before the magistrate judge Debra Freeman for pre-trial proceedings on Jan 13,” her lawyer Daniel Arshack told Rediff.com.
Diplomatic sources earlier told this correspondent that although initially Khobragade was asked to appear in court every Monday, the Indian government, through the lawyer, was trying to get exemption for her personal appearance every week
The attorney said that her diplomatic status does provide her with immunity irrespective of whether she has been reassigned to the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations or not.
“Our position has always been that she always has that diplomatic immunity. All of the charges should be dropped because she has diplomatic immunity. If her transfer to the permanent mission makes that fact clearer to the prosecutor's office, then perhaps they would agree more rapidly (to drop charges). The case needs to be dismissed. Irrespective of whether she is transferred to PMI or not, she has always enjoyed immunity and I can tell you that,” he asserted.
Arshack said that her client and the Indian government are distressed at the treatment that Dr Khobragade has received at the hands of US authorities.
“There was simply no reason to have her arrested on the street in front of her daughter's school nor to have her strip searched. Similarly situated individuals of her stature are routinely provided an opportunity to report to the authorities to address charges, at their convenience, instead of being swept off the street like a common criminal,” he said.
“The factual allegations against her are false and baseless. Dr Khobragade is protected from prosecution by virtue of her diplomatic status. This entire prosecution represents a significant error in judgment and an embarrassing failure of US international protocol.
“We hope that diplomats with authority at the highest levels of the Indian and U.S. governments will confer and conclude that it is simply not in the mutual interests of our countries to continue with this ill-advised prosecution. We expect a prompt resolution of this matter” Arshack said.
Image: Devyani Khobragde
Photograph: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com