Did not violate passports and citizenship laws: Khobragade to HC

New Delhi: Devyani Khobragade, an IFS officer and former Deputy Consul-General of India in New York, today denied in the Delhi High Court the central government's claim that she violated the passport and citizenship laws by obtaining American and Indian passports for her two daughters.

She submitted before Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw that unlike the External Affairs Ministry's contention that her conduct raised questions about her "trustworthiness and integrity", in her 16 years of service she was "routinely adjudicated" as 'outstanding' or a very good officer with the highest degree of credibility and integrity.

In her response to the ministry's contention that she violated Indian Passports Act and Citizenship Act, Khobragade has said "it is respectfully stated that mother of the petitioners (Khobragade's daughters) never applied, nor allowed her spouse or dependants to apply for a foreign nationality or an immigrant visa nor is such a thing alleged by the respondents (Centre).

"Hence, by the respondents' own admission, there is no violation of Rules of Indian Foreign Service (conduct and discipline) Rules, 1961...", she said.

Khobragade has also said in her rejoinder affidavit that she has "served the country for 16 years with outstanding service records."

"The confidential notes written by the persons who have had the occasion to observe the conduct of the officer closely, routinely adjudicated the officer as 'outstanding' or a very good officer with the highest degree of credibility and integrity...," the rejoinder added.

She has also said that her daughters were entitled to haveIndian diplomatic passports.

"In the light of the 16 years of outstanding service to the country, the irrelevant and defaming statements by the respondents at several places in their response casting aspersions on the integrity of the officer are not only unfortunate but also reflect a bias, establishing that the action of issuing 'recordable warning' as well as revocation of the passport was on extraneous considerations, and as a result of bias and anger, as is clear for all to see through the defaming statements of the respondents.

"Hence this court is requested to quash all the actions which result from bias and vengeance," she has said.

The government in its affidavit had said that Khobragade had obtained US and Indian passports for her two daughters in violation of law and without informing the External Affairs Ministry (MEA), raising serious questions about her "trustworthiness and integrity".

MEA had also said "Khobragade cannot and should not escape from consequences of her illegal acts."

The court was hearing Khobragade's daughters' pleas challenging revocation of their Indian passports.

Khobragade, on behalf of her daughters, has contended that the government revoked the passports without issuing them show cause notice or hearing them.

The court had in May this year stayed the December 30, 2014 order by which the government had revoked the passports.

MEA had defended its decision to revoke the passports saying Khobragade obtained Indian diplomatic passports for her daughters by "suppressing material facts" which establishes that she "wilfully and blatantly violated the Indian Passport Act".

The government had also told the HC that Khobragade as an IFS officer having 16 years experience "was expected to uphold Indian Passport Act but has herself wilfully and knowingly violated the Act for her own selfish interests, which shows her utter and scant disregard for rules and regulations of Government of India."

Khobragade's arrest when she was India's Deputy Consul-General in New York on December 12, 2013 on visa fraud charges had triggered a huge diplomatic row between India and the US.

She was arrested in the US on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid and was later released on a USD 250,000 bond.

The issue had escalated into a full-blown diplomatic row between the US and India which had retaliated by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats, among other steps.

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