Vienna Convention and Diplomatic Immunity

Vienna Convention and Diplomatic Immunity
MBA Aspirants are expected to know the happenings which might affect Indian foreign policy, thus impacting our relationship with other countries.
Read: Vienna convention and diplomatic immunity
Diplomats help to protect the interests and nationals of their state in a foreign country and they are responsible for the friendly ties between the home country and the foreign land. As such, it is important that diplomats are protected and able to perform their duties without harassment or fear of coercion by the host country.
This is the reason for the establishment of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. These treaties provide a framework for diplomatic and consular relations between independent states. In addition, they put forth the privileges of a diplomatic mission to allow diplomats and consuls to perform their jobs efficiently, without the fear of coercion.
This forms the basis for diplomatic immunity and consular immunity, which are forms of legal immunity under which diplomats and consuls are not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the laws of the host country.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and diplomatic immunity came into light in December 2013 when Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general for political, economic, commercial and women’s affairs in New York, was arrested for committing visa fraud and providing false statements to bring Sangeeta Richard to the United States.
In 2012, Devyani Khobragade had brought Sangeeta Richard, a woman of Indian nationality for employment as a domestic worker in the former’s residence in New York. To get Sangeeta Richard into the US, Devyani Khobragade signed a contract with Sangeeta Richard, stipulating her monthly salary as Rs 277,290 (US$ 4,500), which was submitted to the US government as part of the visa application. However, upon reaching the US, Sangeeta Richard was asked to sign another contract with her monthly salary being Rs 30,000.
On December 12, 2013, Devyani Khobragade was arrested – she was handcuffed in public and later released on bail of Rs 15 million (US$ 250,000). Devyani Khobragade’s arrest sparked controversy because as per the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Devyani Khobragade was not susceptible to lawsuit under the laws of the host country – the US. So, reports claimed that the US had violated the international law on two counts by arresting a foreign consular officer and handcuffing her.
On the other hand, a US State Department official claimed that Devyani Khobragade was not covered by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations because “the Indian Deputy Consul General enjoys immunity from the jurisdiction of the US courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions”.
Ironically, last year, India detained Daniele Mancini, the Italian ambassador to New Delhi, and threatened to prosecute him because immunity from jurisdiction only applies to acts performed in the exercise of diplomatic functions. This once again sparked controversy in the international arena.
These conventions and laws have loopholes and the outcome of a case is dependent on how the lawyers defend it. In the last one year, India has been making the news for wrong reasons, particularly with regard to the Vienna conventions and diplomatic immunity, and it is hoped that the situation improves in the coming years.
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