India Tourism Office in UK claims immunity in compensation row
The India Tourism Office in Britain has been accused of hiding behind diplomatic immunity to avoid paying compensation to a former employee, who claims he was unfairly terminated for knowing too many "uncomfortable" accounting facts.india Updated: Feb 13, 2014 17:25 IST
The India Tourism Office in Britain has been accused of hiding behind diplomatic immunity to avoid paying compensation to a former employee, who claims he was unfairly terminated for knowing too many "uncomfortable" accounting facts.
Sanjay Mechery, a former accountant at the India Tourism Office in central London, had won a case of unfair dismissal at the Employment Appeal Tribunal here and awarded damages of over 71,000 pounds for loss of earnings in February last year.
However, he is yet to receive the amount and bailiffs have been unable to enforce the order by attaching assets, per legal norms, as the tourism office is designated a non- commercial outfit belonging to the Indian government.
"This struggle has been a trying time for my family and me. In spite of reinstatement and compensation pronounced by the employment tribunal in my favour, the India Tourism Office showed no intentions to take me back.
"I have gone into huge debt due to fighting this case and there has been absolutely no justice in the India tourism's actions," said Mechery, who claims he was dismissed because he knew too many "uncomfortable" accounting facts.
An Employment Appeal Tribunal judgement dated February 28, 2013, states that Mechery was successful in his application for reinstatement and was also successful in his claim for deduction of wages.
"The Respondent (India Tourist Office) failed to allow the Claimant (Mechery) to return to work and failed to enter into any meaningful discussions regarding the reinstatement order... The unanimous decision of the tribunal is to allow the costs award as requested," the judgement states.
However, counsel on behalf of the India Tourism Office has refused to comply with the decision of the tribunal, claiming Mechery "facilitated large scale embezzlement against the Indian Government by two previous directors of the London Office of India Tourism." "India Tourism has immunity from execution of a judgment or award... the ministry is neither involved nor purposed for any commercial activity...assets of whatever nature at these premises are the property of the Indian Government and are not used for commercial purposes," a statement submitted to the high court by India Tourism solicitor Zeeshan Saqib Mian said.
The impasse over this issue is likely to bring the question of immunity into focus as the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has already stated that India Tourism does not enjoy "inviolability" under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.
Madhu Chempakasari, the solicitor representing Mechery, said: "It is most unfortunate that India Tourism, which is a part of a democratically elected government, is trying to shield itself stating immunity for not paying the compensation, as ordered by the court." Repeated phone calls and email queries made by PTI to India Tourism Office assistant director Raj Kumar Sunani remain unanswered.