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HC restrains Indian maid from pursuing case in US against diplomat

In an ex-parte order, the Delhi high court today restrained an Indian maid from pursuing her lawsuit in the US against her former employer, an IFS officer, and her husband for allegedly abusing her.

delhi Updated: Mar 17, 2012 19:31 IST

In an ex-parte order, the Delhi high court on Saturday restrained an Indian maid from pursuing her lawsuit in the US against her former employer, an IFS officer, and her husband for allegedly abusing her.

Justice Kailash Gambhir allowed the civil suit of the ministry of external affairs contending that the case initiated by the maid, Shanti Gurung, with the help of a voluntary organisation against Indian Diplomat Neena and Yogesh Malhotra, is abuse of process of law as the allegations are baseless and malafide.

"Applying the tri-partite test of prima facie case, balance of convenience and irreparable loss and injury, this court deems it appropriate to grant an ex parte anti-suit injunction in favour of the plaintiffs(Centre and Malhotras) and against the defendants (Gurung and others) restraining them from pursuing the complaint....," Justice Gambhir said.

The court, however, asked the government to contact Gurung and ascertain the veracity of her allegations against Malhotras.

"If Gurung has been a victim of any barbaric conduct, as held by the United States court, at the hands of Neena then the government has the prime responsibility of taking care of her rights as well, she also being an Indian citizen.

"This court therefore directs the government to establish personal contact with Gurung through its diplomatic channels to ascertain the veracity of the allegations made by her before the next date," the court said and posted the matter for further hearing for May 3.

The high court accepted the Additional Solicitor General A S Chandhiok's argument that Neena is a diplomat in the services of the Government of India and was sent in official capacity to the US and thus enjoys Sovereign immunity and any order passed by a court there would tantamount to interfering with the right of the Indian Government to determine terms and conditions of employment of its diplomatic officers abroad.

Justice Gambhir also accepted the senior lawyer's argument that Gurung's allegations are baseless as she was engaged as a service staff member under the IBDA (Indian Based Domestic Assistant) facility provided by the Indian Government to the diplomats serving abroad to aid them in carrying out their official duties and that the maid had visited India earlier with the officer but never had complained about anything.

In its petition, the government said that the legal action against Malhotras is in violation of Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act of USA and also the Vienna and the Hague Conventions.

The Government also said that the US court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the complaint against the Indian diplomat and try any proceedings against them.

Last week, a US judge had recommended that Malhotras should pay nearly $1.5 million to Gurung as damages on her complaint of "slavery" and "barbaric treatment" while she was employed as their domestic worker.

Neena, an Indian Foreign Service officer, served as a Press and Culture Counsellor at the Indian Consulate in New York from 2006-2009.

When she came to New York in 2006, Neena brought Gurung from India to serve as her house-maid.

In July 2010, Gurung filed a complaint before the US court accusing Malhotras of kidnapping and trafficking her and also ill treating her.

First Published: Mar 17, 2012 19:30 IST