Washington: An online White House petition demanding the Obama Administration drop the visa fraud case against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade has been launched in Washington by a group of Indian-Americans who said the senior Indian diplomat's public humiliation hurts the sentiments of the community. Protesting the manner in which India's Deputy Consul General was arrested on December 12 in New York, the online petition said there was perceptible animus in handling the arrest.
"Dr Khobragade was arrested as she came out of her daughter's school, handcuffed, strip-searched, body cavity searched, swabbed and kept in a lock up in spite of her assertions of immunity," the petition said, adding that she is one of the faces of Indian government for the Indian community in the US.
"Her public humiliation injures the sentiments of the Indian-American community. Such incidents are bound to strain the Indo-US relations. We request that given the trauma and public humiliation that Dr Khobragade has egregiously suffered, the criminal case against her should be dropped immediately," the online petition said.
Meanwhile, several experts questioned the decision of the US Government to arrest the 39-year-old diplomat on visa fraud case. "There appears to be no question that the government acted legally, but there is a very big distinction between acting under the collar of your authority and doing what as a matter of foreign relations and common goods sense is wise," Stephen Vladeck, professor at the American University College of law, told the NBC news in an interview.
"The treatment of the arrested Indian deputy consul general in New York was abominable. The Indian official is correct that, even with unfriendly countries, such actions are outrageous," said M Gordon Jones, a former US foreign service official who was posted in New Delhi in 1990s.
"I fear that the US mania regarding security allows excesses such as the Devyani Khobragade case to be tolerated. But it should not be: The result is worse security for our New Delhi staff. The US Marshals Service should be investigated and, if the abuses are confirmed, the officials involved should be severely disciplined," Jones wrote to The Washington Post.
"It is time to put the nation's security into perspective. We must control our officials or they will damage our standing in the world," he said.
According to Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs, a consular officer 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. It also calls for giving "respect due to" the Consular official in case of arrest.
Former Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao said the treatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade was wrong, disproportionate, and shocking in extreme and condemnable. Since Khobragade was an accredited diplomat, the Indian Embassy should have been informed about impending move to arrest her.