Devyani penalised for children’s US passports

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New Delhi:  The Ministry of External Affairs has penalised diplomat Devyani Khobragade for failing to inform the Government appropriately about her children’s US passports, even as it has launched another inquiry into interviews that Ms. Khobragade has given to media organisations including The Hindu in the past few weeks.

Pending the second inquiry, the Director-level officer has been put on a “compulsory wait”, which means that she has been relieved of her assignment in the Department of Development Partnership Administration, and has received a strong censure.

When contacted after the ruling by the panel, Ms. Khobragade said there was “no question of her resigning”.

Sources told The Hindu that Ms. Khobragade was found guilty of “serious misconduct” as she had applied for foreign passports for her two daughters without taking clearance from the Government.

In an interview last week, Ms. Khobragade had denied that she had broken the service conduct rules, but admitted that she informed the Government of the passports only a month after she was arrested in New York over the case of underpaying her domestic help.

“I informed the government when it was necessary to, when they wanted to bring me back to India, and asked me to hand over my daughters’s passports (in January 2014),” Ms. Khobragade told The Hindu.

A panel headed by the Ministry’s Joint Secretary of Cypher, NGO and Vigilance (CNV), A.K. Chatterjee however, ruled against her, after a nine-month enquiry. The penalty for the “serious misconduct” under Article 311 of the Central Civil Services Conduct rules is likely to have been a warning or a censure in writing.

But the diplomat, whose arrest brought Indo-US relations to a standstill, and effected the ouster of US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell, now faces another enquiry, which could attract even more severe penalties, for the interviews she has given to the media, specifically to The Times group, NDTV and The Hindu.

Sources said her comments, including demanding a “political resolution” to her case in the US, has particularly upset the Government, and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh has taken a keen interest in the proceedings against Ms. Khobragade.

Sources say the remarks she made may be a contravention of the Rule 11 of the CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964 that bars public officials from speaking to the media on official matters, or make comments “prejudicial to India’s relations with a friendly country.”

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