NEW DELHI — A New York City police officer arrested last month at the New Delhi airport with bullets in his luggage may be forced to stay in India until this summer, after a judge delayed his case Thursday.
Lawyers for Manny Encarnacion, 49, had hoped that Delhi High Court Justice Sunil Gaur would grant their request to dismiss a pending weapons charge against Encarnacion at a court hearing Thursday.
But it was not to be. Gaur delayed the case until July 1, meaning that Encarnacion, whose passport was taken by authorities but who remains out on bond, would have to stay in India until then. The officer wept and clung to his wife after the hearing. The couple declined to comment.
Encarnacion’s March 10 arrest sparked a loud outcry in New York, where politicians called it a politically motivated act of retribution by the Indian government for the December arrest and strip search of a female Indian diplomat in Manhattan. The diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, is accused of lying on a visa application for her domestic worker, who fled Khobragade’s home and alleged she had been mistreated and underpaid. The tabloid headlines blared: “NYPD cop held in India as ‘Nannygate’ revenge.”
Both Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) have called for the State Department to intercede in Encarnacion’s case.
“I think the Indian government is a making a huge mistake to use a veteran and active NYPD officer as a pawn in their game,” Schumer told a local CBS station earlier this month. “If there are ways India feels bad about what happened, there are far more mature and reasonable ways for them to respond.”
Yesterday in New York, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said, “We are currently working with the State Department in an effort to resolve this situation.”
The Khobragade arrest and subsequent fallout has created a rift in U.S.-Indian relations that has yet to be repaired. In March, the U.S. ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, raised eyebrows in her host country when she announced she was retiring after only two years at her post.
Encarnacion was on his way from Delhi to the city of Pune to visit his wife, who is spending six months in an academic program there, his lawyers said, when officers performing a routine check found the bullets in a jacket in his checked baggage. The officer from East Harlem’s 25th Precinct had been at the police firing range two days before leaving for India and tucked the three bullets in a jacket pocket, then forgot about them, the lawyers said. They argued in court that the bullets posed no legitimate threat because Encarnacion was not carrying a weapon.
Afterward, Encarnacion’s lawyer, Samarjit G. Pattnaik, said he did not think that the judge’s delay had anything to do with Khobragade fallout.