When India’s Deputy Consul General in New York was arrested on criminal charges relating to under-payment of wages to her domestic assistant, an Indian national, she was not covered by the Vienna Convention on consular relations, the U.S. State Department has clarified.
It was also noted that following the arrest of Devyani Khobragade recently-appointed Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal, discussed this matter with the Ministry of External Affairs in the Indian embassy and Ambassador Nancy Powell had discussions in New Delhi.
In response to questions from The Hindu it was explained that in the specific case brought against Ms. Khobragade by the Department of Justice, which involved her arrest by law enforcement as she was exiting her daughter’s school on Thursday morning, she enjoyed immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts “only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.”
Officials here clarified that under the Convention the Consul General was therefore “liable to arrest pending trial pursuant to a felony arrest warrant,” and it was this type of warrant that had been issued against her.
Under the State Department’s rules, which are said to be followed by a majority of other countries also, there are “different kinds of immunity,” including diplomatic and consular immunity.
While Ambassadors almost always have diplomatic immunity that may encompass personal as well official acts, consular officials do not enjoy this privilege.
While it may not be the same everywhere else in the world, “This two-fold immunity also applies to U.S. diplomats serving abroad,” it was noted.