Devyani Khobragade, whose visa episode caused the US-India diplomatic ties to flare up, is returning to India
Devyani Khobragade, senior Indian diplomat, who made headlines all over the world for her visa fraud which caused a diplomatic spat between United States and India, is headed back to India after being accorded full diplomatic immunity. However, this doesn’t mean she is absolved of any charges. The visa indictment against 39-year-old Khobragade will remain and she will have to face trial, if she returns to the US without diplomatic immunity, US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a letter to District Judge Shira Scheindlin.
Bharara, who earlier was part of the prosecution team that put Rajat Gupta behind bars, said the grand jury has indicted the diplomat on two counts of visa fraud and making false statements in connection with the visa application of her domestic help Sangeeta Richard.
“The charges will remain pending until such time as she can be brought to Court to face the charges, either through a waiver of immunity or the defendant’s return to the United States in a non-immune status. The time between now and the time that she is able to be brought before the Court is excluded automatically under the Speedy Trial Act, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 3161(h)(3) (A), which provides for the exclusion of any period of delay resulting from the unavailability of the defendant,” he said.
Khobragade maintained her innocence and defended by saying, “The charges against me are false and baseless. I look forward to proving them wrong.” She also affirmed her determination to ensure that this episode does not leave a lasting imprint on her family, in particular her children who are still in the US. Khobragade was granted full diplomatic immunity on January 8 under the India-US Headquarters agreement. On 9 January 2014, the US request for waiver of diplomatic immunity to Khobragade was refused by India.
Khobragade was arrested on 12 December 2013 on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid, Sangeeta Richard. She was later released on a $250,000 bond.
The 21-page indictment said that Khobragade did not want to pay the “victim”, her domestic worker Richard, and the required wages under US law or provide her with other protections against exploitative work conditions mandated by US law, which are “widely publicised to foreign diplomats and government officials. The indictment said Khobragade filed a $4,500 amount as monthly income in the visa application of Richard. It said the $4,500 figure did not match “any actual income figure”. It said Khobragade entered into a “fake employment contract” with Richard and told her that it was a “mere formality” in order to get the visa and she “coached” Richard to lie to the US official in her visa interview at the US Embassy in New Delhi. “Khobragade instructed the victim to lie and not say anything about actually being paid only Rs30,000 per month,” the indictment alleged.
The indictment further states that around February 2013, Richard told Khobragade “on several occasions” that she wanted to end the employment contract and return to India because she felt she was being “mistreated.” It adds that after Richard fled Khobragade’s residence, the diplomat and “others took steps to prevent the victim and her family from communicating with lawyers” about the experience she had working for Khobragade.
Articles on Devyani Khobragade covered by Moneylife
Nomura sees the Indian government lower spending by 0.6% of GDP over the next four months to meet the fiscal deficit target
The current run rate on the fiscal deficit leaves no space for slippage in the remaining four months of the fiscal year. It is estimated that the government will have to cut spending by 0.6% of GDP over the next four months to meet its deficit target. This is the austerity forecast for the Indian government from Nomura analysts in a research note.
Nomura expects overall revenues to fall short by Rs720bn (0.6% of GDP) in FY14 from weak growth causing net tax revenues to grow at only 10% year-on-year in FY14 (government's target: 19%), and a shortfall on disinvestment, which is unlikely to be completely offset by higher dividends.
According to Nomura, lower government spending and weak investment demand contribute to the view that GDP growth will remain in the 4.5%-5.0% range until Q2 2014.
The trends in government spending are shown in the chart below:
Nomura warns that these cuts having two key implications. First, a rising government cash balance will tighten banking system liquidity in Q1 2014. Second, growth in government spending should slow to 5.6% y-o-y in Dec-Mar from 17.7% in April-November, which will likely hurt growth. With a short-run (1-year) fiscal multiplier1 of 0.55, spending cuts worth 0.6% of GDP would lower GDP growth by 0.3% during this period.
A new development in the justice system in India could alter many proceedings in India, including the 2G scam
A new development in the realms of law could change the nature of court proceedings, which could also have wider implications on the justice system in India, especially the 2G scam and other high profile cases. The Supreme Court held that a person can be made an accused by the trial court in case evidence crops up during the proceedings even if that person has not been named in the First Information Report (FIR) or charge sheet.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said that the trial court has powers to summon a person as an accused despite his name being not mentioned by the investigators in the FIR and charge sheet.
The bench clarified that Section 319 of Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) empowers the trial court to proceed against a person who appears to be guilty of offence but not named in the FIR or charge sheet.
The judgement could have implications in some cases arising out of the 2G scam in which the trial judge had summoned as accused some corporate honchos despite their being not named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the FIR and charge sheet.
However, many businessmen have voiced their displeasure and approached the Supreme Court against the trial court's summoning order. The apex court is yet to pronounce its verdict in the case.