India recalls NZ High Commissioner after assault allegations

The staff member had told the police that he was assaulted by the High Commissioner’s wife.

June 27, 2015 11:28 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:37 pm IST - New Delhi

File photo of Ravi Thapar. Photo courtesy: Indian High Commission

File photo of Ravi Thapar. Photo courtesy: Indian High Commission

India has recalled its High Commissioner to New Zealand, Ravi Thapar, and will investigate the allegation of assault levelled against his wife, Sharmila, by a member of the couple’s domestic staff. The External Affairs Ministry said here on Saturday that Mr. Thapar had been posted to headquarters here.

“The Ministry is seized of this matter. It was first brought to the notice of the Ministry on May 10, 2015. The High Commission immediately informed both the New Zealand Police and the Foreign Office,” a spokesperson said.

On May 11, the New Zealand authorities replied that the staff member had presented himself before the police.

Recalled High Commissioner’s wife to face investigation

The domestic staff member of the recalled High Commissioner to New Zealand, Ravi Thapar, has made “certain allegations”, but no charges has been pressed against the Thapars, the External Affairs Ministry said here on Saturday.

The Ministry, however, said an investigation would be conducted into the charges of assault against Mr. Thapar’s wife, Sharmila.

“The Ministry takes all such cases very seriously. A team was deputed from the headquarters to New Zealand to ascertain the facts and conduct an independent inquiry. The team liaised with the New Zealand authorities to resolve the matter. The team facilitated the return of the service staff member. He returned on May 28, 2015,” a spokesperson said.

Reports in the New Zealand media said the staff member, who had managed to walk out of the Thapar residence at night, told the police that he was assaulted by the High Commissioner’s wife.

PTI reported that the staff member, believed to be a chef, had walked 20 km one night from the diplomat’s residence to Wellington, where he was found by a member of the public in a distressed state. “He was then taken to a police station and he later spent several nights at the Wellington night shelter. He alleged that he had been kept in slavery and assaulted by Sharmila,” the agency said.

Previous cases

In 2013, Devyani Khobragade, then India’s Deputy Consul-General in New York City, was arrested and publicly handcuffed and strip-searched after being accused of submitting false documents on an application for her housekeeper to live and work in the U.S. and not paying her minimum wages.

In June 2011, a former housekeeper sued India’s then Consul-General in New York, Prabhu Dayal, after accusing him of intimidating her into a year of forced labour. In February 2012, a New York City Magistrate Judge fined Neena Malhotra, a former press counsellor for the Indian consulate, for allegedly forcing an under-aged Indian girl to work without pay.

In 2011, Anil Verma, a 1986-batch IAS officer of the West Bengal cadre and third-ranked diplomat in the Indian High Commission, was accused of domestic violence in the U.K.

A former diplomat, speaking on condition on anonymity, said several domestic staff members had either “disappeared” or “raised a hue and cry about mistreatment” by their employers in the past.

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