Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade arrives in New Delhi

Expelled Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, in effect, has been barred entry into the United States, with the State Department saying that her name would be placed in visa and immigration lookout systems to prevent routine issuance of visa.

Khobragade’s departure from the US, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, does not change the charges against the 39-year-old diplomat.

“Her name would be placed in visa and immigration lookout systems to prevent the routine issuance of any future visa and upon her departure, a warrant may be issued for her arrest,” she said.

From the comments made by the State Department spokesperson, it is clear that Khobragade is being virtually treated as a ‘persona non grata’ and may be permitted to visit the US only to subject herself to the jurisdiction of court.

Khobragade, married to an Indian-origin American national, has two daughters, aged 6 and 3, who are now likely to shift to India.

The US has said that Khobragade, who returned to New Delhi, no longer enjoys immunity and an arrest warrant might be issued against her.

“Prior to her (Khobragade) departure, it was conveyed to her and to the government of India that she is not permitted to return to the United States except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court.’’

On Thursday, Khobragade was indicted in a New York court on two counts of visa fraud and misrepresentation of facts.

“The charges remain in place. There are processes that are standard processes in each of these cases, which we were abiding by throughout this process,” the State Department spokesperson insisted.

Arrested on December 12, Khobragade was strip-searched and held with criminals, triggering a row between the two sides with India retaliating by downgrading the privileges of certain category of US diplomats among other steps.

‘No arrest warrant as of now’

Meanwhile, Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in New York said no arrest warrant has been issued against Khobragade as of now.

“There is no arrest warrant as of now. We have not obtained an arrest warrant. What exists now is the indictment but as of now there is no arrest warrant,” a spokesperson at Bharara’s office told PTI.

Khobragade, indicted on charges of visa fraud and making false statements, flew back to India on January 9 after she was accorded full diplomatic immunity by the US.

The spokesperson said what the State Department means is that an arrest warrant “may” be issued, it does not mean that it “has” been issued.

An arrest warrant, if and when it is issued, is issued by a judge or magistrate but the Manhattan Attorney’s office would go to court to get that warrant.

“We have not done that,” the spokesperson added.

Sources said there is no time by which an arrest warrant has to be issued adding that the State Department note said that an arrest warrant can be issued if Khobragade re-enters the US without diplomatic immunity as she can then be arrested in order to assure her appearance in court on the charges she faces.

They added that since Khobragade is not in the country, there is really no reason to have an arrest warrant against her. “She is not here so there is no urgency to get an arrest warrant.”

(This article was published on January 11, 2014)
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