US court dismisses criminal charges against Devyani Khobragade

A New York court yesterday dismissed criminal charges against diplomat Devyani Khobragade that had strained India-US relationship a couple of months back.

Devyani KhobragadeJudge Shira A Scheindlin granted the diplomat's motion for dismissal of her indictment on the ground of diplomatic immunity, directing the court to close the case.

The court, terminating Khobragade's bail conditions, exonerated her bond and also called for withdrawal of any warrant of arrest issued against her in connection with the case.

The court, however, ruled, ''if the acts charged in the indictment were not 'performed in the exercise of official functions,' then there is currently no bar to a new indictment''.

Khobragade left for India on 9 January, under the protection of diplomatic immunity within hours of her indictment and her husband and daughters joined her later.

US attorney Preet Bharara's office had slapped visa fraud charges and making false statements, against her, in connection with the employment of her housekeeper Sangeeta Richard.

Khobragade was arrested from outside her children's school on 12 December and had to undergo strip search at a holding facility before being produced before a court.

She was released on bail a few hours later.

But outraged by the manner of her arrest and treatment in custody, India demanded both an apology and the dismissal of the case citing diplomatic immunity.

In order to press its case, the Indian government ordered retaliatory measures withdrawing privileges extended to US diplomats in India that were not reciprocated in the US.

In a related development, meanwhile, Khobragade is under the scanner after the government, found that her two daughters had US passports as also Indian diplomatic passports - a crime under Indian law as it amounted to dual citizenship, The Indian Express reports.

The discovery would likely cause much embarrassment as the government had taken unprecedented retaliatory measures against US diplomats after her arrest on charges of visa fraud and he alleged mistreatment in New York.

According to government sources, getting US passports for her daughters meant the diplomat kept her options open to derive maximum benefit from the ''best of both worlds''. Khobragade's daughters, aged four and seven, are in New York with their father, a US citizen.

Under the rules, a diplomat's spouse was also expected to take up Indian citizenship and though Khobragade's husband had applied, the citizenship had not come through due to stringent home ministry rules which call for the applicant's stay in India for a stipulated period.