Visa and US Labor Law Violation - Immunity Issue of Indian Diplomat
Mrs. Devyani Khobragade, an IFS officer was deputed as the Consulate General in New York. She had employed an Indian maid at $3 per hour, but this was very much less than minimum wages i.e. $9.75 approved by the United States labor law.
Devyani was arrested under the US labor laws and for visa law violations. It was stated that she had given false statements to secure the visa for her maid. Devyani owns a diplomatic status, but was handcuffed publicly and released after she deposited her passport.
This entire episode caused great humiliation to the Indian Government. India summoned the US diplomat and expressed strong dissent towards this total matter.
A few questions arise in the mind that needs clarification here.
Whether it was a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations?
The point to be debated here is - Do consulate generals also come under the diplomatic missions covered under the VCDR? Certainly, India considers the consulate generals in parity with diplomatic missions. However in case of Miss Khobragade, it is clearly seen that the US has made a distinction between consulate general and diplomatic missions.
What US could have done as an alternative?
Definitely, the US government could have sent for the Indian ambassador from the diplomatic mission stationed at the Washington DC and expressed their disappointment over the whole affair. Consecutively, they could have also voiced their frustration to the Ministry of External Affairs and sought correct steps.
Difference between development in US and India
The minimum wages differ in both countries. In India, $3 per hour is significantly sufficient for an Indian employee. However, the same is not considered as sufficient by the US labor laws.
Understand each other’s way of life
To enhance relations, it is vital that both India and US Government sit across and discuss this matter openly as well understand each other’s way of practices. Moreover, also come up with a solution to prevent such humiliating episodes occurring again in future.
India has certainly accepted and given equality status to consulate general and diplomatic mission. In India, the US consulate general posted in various parts of the city like in Chennai has been covered under diplomatic immunity. Now, it is time that the US respond to this Indian gestures.
Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations
VCDR is a global agreement that defines an agenda for political relations between sovereign countries.
- Persons working as diplomats are inviolable and cannot be detained or arrested.
- Host nations must protect diplomats from attacks on their freedom and dignity
- It includes a guarantee of free travel inside the host country. But no such freedom is implied for cross bordered trips
- It also includes another provision aiming to the significance of unimpeded travel. Third countries are obliged to let the envoys pass through, when they make trips back and forth from their station of duty
- Foreign representatives cannot be prosecuted or punished by host country for actions carried out in the line of duty
- This immunity can only be waived by the diplomat’s home country in an expressed manner (in writing)
- It protects embassies from intrusions and guarantees that diplomats can communicate freely with their capitals
- It also gives host countries the right to expel envoys