Amid all the bluster and insinuations in the Indian media, the high journalistic standards of The Hindu stand head and shoulders above the fray in its excellent reporting of the Devyani Khobragade affair. Admirable coverage has been given to the legal framework of the case. It is surprising that the complete and official U.S. Department of Justice charge sheet against the diplomat — and available for public scrutiny on its website — has not been published by any other media outlet in India.
I believe that many of the questions and assumptions that are currently being so widely debated may be addressed by a full reading of the actual documents and charges concerned. [The link is at: http://bit.ly/1fKBqun]
As l’affaire Devyani Khobragade gets even more complicated, different voices are emerging from the U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is central to the issue, and some other Indian Americans (writing in the American media) are trying to sound “more loyal than the king.”
I wonder why no one has used this phrase so far for Mr. Bharara. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I reiterate that Mr. Bharara, in his observations against the Indian diplomat, is trying to sound belligerent and bombastic just to show himself as more American than the Americans. He talks of “evacuating” the maid’s family from India as if they were American nationals stuck in Syria or Sudan. Without going into the merits of the case, I think someone in the American establishment needs to rein in Mr. Bharara.
The way in which Ms. Sangeeta Richard’s family members were “evacuated” from India, as claimed by Mr. Bharara, makes it appear as if she were a mole planted in Ms. Khobragade’s house by U.S. spy agencies and then evacuated as a quid pro quo for any dubious activities she might have indulged in.
In the American legal system, no one is above the law. Mr. Bharara has a reputation for taking on the mighty and powerful as the Attorney for the southern District of New York — an example being insider-trading and Steve Cohen of SAC Capital. Maligning him is grossly unfair. Finally, what did Ms. Khobragade do to invoke this kind of a response from the U.S. legal system?
On view are two contrasting systems: one that treats all citizens equally and enforces its laws strictly, and the other that follows an antiquated, ill-understood and ill-enforced criminal justice system that treats the ruling class differently from the common man. Ms. Khobragade should have understood the consequences of visa fraud, which is a federal crime in the U.S.
The diplomat was arrested as she did not pay her domestic help the wages at the rate determined by the U.S. government and as per agreement. Therefore, are salaries paid by Indian software giants in the U.S. in line with the wages fixed for similar jobs by the U.S. government? If not, what happens to them? Second, a large number of U.S. firms have manufacturing bases in China, Thailand, Vietnam, and so on, paying local wages. Being American entities, are they not contravening their own country’s minimum wage norms? Third, do American embassies in other countries pay the same wages as American workers are entitled to, to other foreign nationals working for them in these embassies?
The statement made by Mr. Bharara that “legal process has been started in India to silence her and attempts were made to compel her to return to India” is shocking. Being a legal professional himself, his display of utter disrespect for the Indian judicial system is most appalling. To make matters worse, a British-based peer is hogging the media limelight explaining how Indians do not respect domestic help, and in turn human rights, by paying “slavery wages,” and how America does not tolerate “slavery,” almost forgetting that slavery was rampant in America. It is unfortunate that both these gentlemen, of Indian origin, appear to be born with a “colonial slave” mentality. For them, everything is wrong with the land of their birth.
In 1709, the British Parliament passed the Anne Act, which is one of the earliest pieces of legislation guaranteeing diplomatic immunity to ambassadors and consuls. In Triquet vs Bath (1764), the defendant, a domestic servant of the Bavarian Minister to Great Britain, successfully claimed diplomatic immunity under the Anne Act and the judgment was delivered by Lord Mansfield. He relied on Buvot vs Barbuit (1737) wherein Lord Talbot declared a clear opinion: “That the Law of Nations, in its full extent was part of the law of England.” Indian authorities should inform the U.S. that diplomatic immunities were one of the earliest agreed principles of international law and should be adhered to by all nations.