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Indian diplomat's daughter to sue NYC, school

Last updated on: May 25, 2011 13:21 IST
George Joseph reports on an Indian child's nightmare in New York.

An Indian diplomat's daughter is suing New York City for $1.5 million for wrongful arrest on the suspicion of sending threatening e-mails to teachers at the John Browne High School in Queens, a New York borough.

Krittika Biswas, daughter of Debashish Biswas, the vice-consul at the Indian consulate in Manhattan, says she was ill treated in prison. first reported the incident on Sunday, May 22.

Suspecting that she was the student who threatened the teachers, Krittika was suspended from school, but when the real culprit was located, he was let go, she alleged.

Krittika has now filed a Notice of Claim against New York City and the education and police departments, seeking compensatory and punitive damages for her wrongful arrest and detention and the disciplinary action by the school.

As per US law, a notice should be filed before filing the suit.

Krittika broke down while narrating her nightmare to the media on the steps of City Hall in New York on Tuesday, May 24.

She alleged she was not allowed to use the bathroom for a long time when she was in custody at the 107th precinct police station.

The notice, filed by her lawyer Ravi Batra, seeks at least $500,000 and $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages, respectively.

It also demands the termination of Howard Kwait, principal, John Bowne High School, and Jamie Kim Ross, the teacher who received the e-mail.

Batra said Krittika's more than 24-hour arrest on February 8 was a violation of international law, federal law as well as state and city law.

He said that neither Debashish Biswas, her father, nor India's Consul General in New York, Ambassador Prabhu Dayal, were informed about the arrest.

The lawayer said Krittika had diplomatic immunity that prevented her from being arrested. But the consul general said US authorities had informed him that the immunity did not extend to a diplomat's family.

On December 21 authorities at the John Bowne High School questioned Krittika and another student for sending obscene and threatening e-mails to two teachers -- Ross and Ivan Cohill, a gym instructor.

According to officials, the IP address of the two threatening e-mails was traced to the building where both Krittika and the other student lived.

"The e-mails were sent from an IP address associated with the Earthlink, Inc network, which does not match Krittika's IP address. Moreover, the building comprises 270 apartments and hence it would not be right to blame her," Batra said.

On December 22, the parents of both students were called to school. Krittika's parents were told that because she knew French, and part of the offensive e-mails were in French, she was the main suspect.

The parents were informed that the matter would thereon be handled by the police.

On February 8, Krittika was called to the assistant principal's office because similar e-mails were received by the teachers on February 6. Police officers were present in the assistant principal's office.

Soon after, the police interrogated her. Krittika said a police officer told her that if she did not confess, she would have to spend time in prison with prostitutes and persons with HIV.

"I was sitting there (in school) with handcuffs on," she recalled on Tuesday. The handcuffs, she added, were so tight that "they were like a torture device."

It soon emerged that Krittika did not send the e-mails. The school authorities allowed her back to the school after the real culprit was located.

"They based the arrest on basically nothing," Krittika said, adding that the school did not suspend or arrest the student who actually sent the e-mails. "I don't know why he wasn't arrested. The principal pushed for my arrest."

On March 15, the principal sent an e-mail, with an attached letter, dropping all charges against her.

"Yet, neither in the conversation nor in the e-mail did he admit that they had found the student who had sent these obscene and criminal e-mails. They hid that fact," Krittika said.

Photograph: Krittika Biswas breaks down when speaking to the media in New York City on Tuesday. Image: SnapsIndia

George Joseph in New York