Devyani Khobragade Issue: Vienna Convention

WHAT IS THE ISSUE

⇒ On December 12, Devyani Khobragade (India’s deputy consul general in USA), was arrested by USA’s security officials for committing fraud in the United States Visa application for her maid, Sangeeta Richard.

⇒ The diplomat was handcuffed and arrested in public & later released on bail of $250,000 which she would be needing to pay if she fails to attend the proceedings of the court.

Vienna Convention

⇒ All this started when Mrs. Richard asked the diplomat if she can work outside.

⇒ Mrs. Richard was brought to America by the diplomat for her domestic work. The visa for the same was applied by her.

⇒ But in June this year she went missing. Diplomat at this time blamed Mrs. Richard of extortion & theft. Even a written complaint was given to the police department but they were not able to find her click here for more information about Devyani Khobragade Issue.

⇒ After some days all the family member of Mrs. Richard who lives in India were evacuated to America. This amounts to intervention in the state affairs by USA.

⇒ The maid allegedly demanded $10,000 from the diplomat as the extortion money. It is by rule that extra amount of money needs to be given to the domestic helper. It is something around $10 per hour. The diplomat was giving her $6 per hour. Probable the maid was using this problem as the leverage for extortion.

WHAT ARE THE REACTIONS ?

⇒ It is being argued that she should be well protected as she is the diplomat.

⇒ Some also argue that while thinking of her as diplomat it should also be kept in mind that she did injustice to her maid.

VIENNA CONVENTION ON CONSULAR RELATIONS (VCCR)

⇒ It enlists the provisions of protecting a diplomat or consular.

⇒ Article 41(1) of the VCCR states that: 1) Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority. 2) consular officers shall not be committed to prison or be liable to any other form of restriction on their personal freedom save in execution of a judicial decision of final effect (i.e. a consular officer can’t be put in jail).

⇒ But USA is using that Article 43(1) of the VCCR. It states that [c]onsular officers and consular employees shall not be amenable to the jurisdiction of the judicial or administrative authorities of the receiving State in respect of acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.

⇒ This means the US does not consider the appointment of personal employees by a consular official important to the execution of consular functions.

⇒ Vienna convention was a reaction against the unlimited immunity that had been enjoyed by diplomats until then.

⇒ Many of the immunities enjoyed – abused – by diplomats were not conceived of by the drafters of the Vienna convention and the treaty was not meant to extend to such actions.

⇒ The logic behind restrictive interpretation of functional immunity is that while a diplomat definitely needs to be protected from any distraction to aid his purpose, it is equally true that the diplomat should respect the law of the land where he is residing.

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