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India steps in, takes up matter of diplomat's daughter with US

IANS  New Delhi, May 26, 2011
First Published: 21:26 IST(26/5/2011) | Last Updated: 21:57 IST(26/5/2011)

The Indian government has taken "very seriously" the matter of a diplomat's daughter being illegally arrested in New York, even as the US administration claimed that family members of diplomats do not enjoy immunity.

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"It is a case which the embassy has taken up very seriously with the US government," India's Ambassador to US Meera Shankar told reporters here, after a meeting with Home Minister P Chidambaram.

Krittika Biswas, an 18-year-old student of John Bowne High School and daughter of Debashish Biswas, vice consul (administration) at the Indian Consulate General in New York, filed a notice of claim May 6.

She said her claims of diplomatic immunity were ignored when she was handcuffed and locked up for more than 24 hours Feb 8 after a "shoddy" probe by administrators into alleged obscene emails sent to two teachers in her school.

"When she was apprehended, we worked through the night as we got the information in the night. We woke up the US officials in the night and got her released the next day," said Shankar.

She indicated that Biswas had filed the claims case after permission from the Indian embassy.

"Now she has sought permission to file a case against the US authorities and she is fighting it. Subsequent to her release, we have conveyed our concern to the US government about the way she was treated. The case is obviously a matter of concern to all of us," said Shankar.

In Washington, the US state department reiterated its long-standing position that diplomatic immunity does not extend to family members.

"My understanding is that as a family member of consular officer, rather, she does not enjoy immunity from jurisdiction or inviolability," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Wednesday.

"The Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs provides that consular officers are not liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a felony where a court warrant is required," he said. "But that provision does not apply to family members."

Toner acknowledged that diplomats' family members carry a diplomatic passport, "but again, our understanding is that these provisions, however, don't apply to their family members and that this is different for consular officers versus those in the embassy".

The spokesman insisted that the incident would not affect US ties with New Delhi saying, "The US-Indian relationship, I would counter, has never been stronger."

"We've got a strategic partnership in place. We're cooperating at an unprecedented level on education and science and technology, as well as economics, trade, health, agriculture.

"You name it - the sector - we're cooperating with India well in it. And this is obviously to the benefit of the citizens of both our countries, rather," Toner said.

Asked if the US had received any communication from New Delhi on the New York incident, the spokesman said: "Not that I'm aware of. But again, this is a matter of ongoing litigation, so I'm limited."

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