A federal judge dismissed an indictment Wednesday against an Indian diplomat whose arrest in December on visa fraud charges led to a major diplomatic crisis between the United States and India.
Devyani Khobragade, an Indian consular official in New York, did not have full diplomatic immunity when she was arrested in December for submitting false forms to obtain a U.S. visa for a household worker.
But the Indian government subsequently changed her job to one with full immunity, and the fact that this occurred on Jan. 8, the day before she was formally indicted, meant the indictment was invalid, Judge Shira A. Sheindlin of the Southern District of New York ruled.
The case had provoked outrage in India over both the arrest and the conditions of Khobragade’s brief detention, including a strip-search.
The State Department moved to resolve the situation by simultaneously recognizing her newly acquired immunity and declaring her persona non grata.
Before the indictment, attorneys on both sides filed dueling court petitions. Read the filings:
• Offer to waive indictment deadline
• Response from U.S. attorney
• Response from Khobragade's attorney expressing surprise and distress
Although she left the country on Jan. 9, just hours after the grand jury indictment was issued, the federal prosecutor in the case warned that she would be rearrested and tried if she ever again entered this country.
Under Wednesday’s ruling, that warning is no longer valid, although the court said she could be re-indicted if the prosecutor chose. Her attorney, Daniel N. Arshack, said that would be an “aggressive and unnecessary act.”
Khobragade, whose husband and two children are U.S. citizens, would have to apply for a visa to reenter the United States.
Neither the U.S. attorney in the case nor the State Department offered immediate comment on the ruling.