India tears into Bharara for defending action against diplomat

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New Delhi, December 19:  India on Thursday hit back at U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who had justified Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest, accusing him of interfering with the Indian legal system and asserting that the arrest was not in keeping with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity.

Criticising the U.S. Prosecutor for making statement for “post facto rationalization” for an action that should never have taken place in the first instance, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson said there were no courtesies extended to Khobragade, who is the only “victim” in this case.

He said despite acknowledging that legal process were in place in India, the statement talks why it was necessary to evacuate the family of absconding maid Sangeeta Richard, thereby, making “implicit comment” about the Indian legal system, its enforcement authorities, and the responsibility that legal officials of a foreign government seem to “arrogate upon” themselves with regard to nationals of another country.

“We need to keep in mind the simple fact that there is only one victim in this case. That victim is Devyani Khobragade — a serving Indian diplomat on mission in the United States.

“The action taken against her was not in keeping with the Vienna Convention. There were no courtesies in the treatment that was meted out to the diplomat, under the normal definition of that word in English language,” he said.

Observing that the statement includes remarks about equality before the law of both the rich and the poor, the Spokesperson said, “Not only is this a rhetorical remark that is not conducive to resolving ‘inaccuracies’, it is also not a feature of the law that is exclusive to the office of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney.”

In a statement in the U.S, the India-born Bharara not only defended the action against Khobragade but also said that maid Sangeeta Richard’s family has been brought to the U.S. He said a legal process was started in India to “silence her and attempts were made to compel her to return to India“.

Reacting to this, MEA said, “The statement in question acknowledges that legal processes were in place in India. Yet, incredibly, it invites speculation about why it was necessary to evacuate the family of Ms Richards and about the action purportedly being taken against them.

“The implication of this remarkable admission needs to be considered very carefully with regard to the implicit comment it makes about the Indian legal system, Indian law enforcement authorities, and the responsibility that legal officials of a foreign government seem to arrogate upon themselves with regard to the nationals of another country.”

A 1999-batch IFS officer, Ms. Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges as she was dropping her daughter to school and released on a $250,000 bond only after pleading not guilty in court.

The ill-treatment of the its diplomat evoked a sharp reaction from India which initiated a slew of steps to downgrade the privileges enjoyed by the US diplomats and their families including withdrawing airport passes and stopping import clearances.

India also questioned the right of a foreign government to “evacuate” Indian citizens from its soil while cases are pending against them in the Indian legal system.

Observing that the statement underlines the compulsion that is felt by the Manhattan US Attorney’s office “to make sure that victims, witnesses and their families are safe and secure while cases are pending,” MEA said, “This is precisely why, when there is a prior legal process already underway in India, the Manhattan US Attorney should consider it obligatory to enable justice to take its course in India in the first instance.

“When the legal process in another friendly and democratic country is interfered with in this manner, it not only amounts to interference but also raises the serious concern of calling into question the very legal system of that country.

“It is our considered view that this statement is one more attempt at a post facto rationalization for an action that should never have taken place in the first instance.”

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