A U.S. judge has thrown out the visa fraud case against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, ruling that she had full diplomatic immunity.
In her 14-page order on Wednesday, District Judge Shira Scheindlin said “it is undisputed” that the diplomat acquired full diplomatic immunity at 5.47 p.m. on January 8 after the U.S. State Department approved her accreditation as counsellor to India’s mission to the United Nations. Ms. Khobragade, who was Deputy Consul-General in New York at the time of arrest, had immunity until she left for India on January 9 evening and so the prosecutors could not proceed with the indictment, the judge said.
The ruling, however, left open the possibility of prosecutors bringing a new indictment against Ms. Khobragade, and they “intend to proceed accordingly,” said James Margolin, spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Nor did the judge bar the prosecution from bringing new charges in future, stemming from allegations that she made a false statement to the U.S. government in connection with a visa application of her domestic help Sangeeta Richard. Mr. Bharara’s office argued that Ms. Khobragade was not immune from her December 12 arrest on charges of visa fraud and making false statements about Ms. Richar’s visa application.
India welcomes ruling
Sandeep Dikshit writes from New Delhi:
India welcomed the U.S. court decision to dismiss the case, noting, however, that its order had not taken into account some aspects of the case that led to a cooling off of bilateral ties for three months.
“We welcome this ruling … ” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said in a statement. [But] “we note that the judgment does not consider the merits of the case or our well-known position, including on admissibility of the arrest of Devyani Khobragade in December 2013.”