Devyani Khobragade row: US court rejects diplomat's plea

Devyani Khobragade attends a Rutgers University event at India's Consulate General in New York, June 19, 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Devyani Khobragade is the deputy consul general of India in New York

A US federal judge has denied a request by the lawyer of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade to delay proceedings in a case of visa fraud that has led to a diplomatic row and outrage in India.

Judge Sarah Netburn has refused to extend the deadline of 13 January for the indictment of the diplomat.

Ms Khobragade was detained on charges of visa fraud and of underpaying her housekeeper in New York last month.

She denies all the charges and has been released on bail.

India has demanded an apology from the US over her alleged "humiliation".

Minimum wage

Ms Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack had appealed for an extension of the deadline of indictment, saying that it was coming in the way of plea negotiations with the US government to resolve the visa fraud case.

But Judge Netburn ruled that since Ms Khobragade was arrested on 12 December last year, she "must be indicted by 13 January."

Ms Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, was detained on suspicion of visa fraud and making false statements, after being accused of paying her Indian maid below the US minimum wage.

She was handcuffed and strip-searched after a complaint from the maid, Sangeeta Richard.

The diplomat, who has been released on bail, denies all the charges and has in turn accused Ms Richard of theft and attempted blackmail.

In the last few weeks, Delhi has ordered a series of diplomatic reprisal measures against the US, and relations between the two countries have been strained.

There are also unconfirmed reports that US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz's visit to India next week may not go ahead.

Security barricades around the US embassy in the capital were removed and a visiting US delegation was snubbed by senior Indian politicians and officials.

And on Wednesday, the US embassy in Delhi was ordered to stop "commercial activities on its premises". India also said that embassy cars could be penalised for traffic offences.

The embassy has been told to shut down a club within its premises which includes a pool, restaurant and tennis court, NDTV news channel said.

After her arrest, Ms Khobragade was transferred to India's permanent mission to the UN and has applied for full diplomatic immunity. The US is still reviewing the application, reports say.

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