HC dismisses plea of Ethiopian consul for diplomatic immunity

A view of Karnataka High Court in Bangalore. File

A view of Karnataka High Court in Bangalore. File

The honorary consul of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia cannot claim immunity under the provisions of the Diplomatic Relations (Vienna Convention) Act, 1972 from summons issued by the Income-Tax (I-T) authorities when the consul also runs his private business activities on the premises of the consulate, the High Court of Karnataka has said.

Honorary consul Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi, who is the managing director of the Bengaluru-based Karuturi Global Ltd., which deals in cut roses, had questioned the actions of the I-T Department in treating his office as a “camp office” of the Assistant Commissioner of I-T and summoning him for recording statements before the Assistant Commissioner on those premises itself.

It was contended on behalf of the consul that the Assistant Commissioner could not have held his “camp office” on the same premises where the consular office was situated in view of the “sanctity attached to the consular premises under the The Diplomatic Relations (Vienna Convention) Act, 1972”.

The court noted that Section 8 of the Diplomatic Relations Act imposes a restriction on a public servant or agent of the Union or State government, or any public authority, from entering the premises of the diplomatic mission for the purpose of legal process, except with the consent of the head of the mission.

However, “the said immunity (restriction under Section 8) as such cannot be claimed by a person even though he is appointed as honorary consul of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, when he is carrying on his business activities also on the same premises, so long as the action is being taken under the provisions of the I-T Act or other similar enactments. His [the consul’s] other business activities have nothing to do with the consular activities carried out on the premises,” Justice Kothari observed.

The court also observed that if the consul himself had “violated the sanctity of the consular premises” by carrying out his other business activities there without specific permission, then he could not claim immunity.

The court disposed of the petition with a direction that the petitioner appear before the officer concerned within a month. The I-T Department accepted this arrangement.

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2022 3:23:33 am |