The following is a chronology of events that took place, eventually leading to the current controversy over the arrest and mistreatment of Devyani Khobragade by US authorities, provided by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
November 2012: Sangeeta Richard accompanied Khobragade to New York in end-November.
23 June 2013: Richard goes missing. Her husband who was in Delhi claimed he doesn’t know of her whereabouts. A few days before that Richard had sought Khobragade’s permission to take up a job outside, which the diplomat had refused as it would have been illegal employment.
24 June: The next day Khobragade informed the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) in New York and requested help to trace Richards.
At OFM’s advice, Khobragade went to lodge a missing persons report at the concerned police precinct but was told she could not register the complaint since Richards was an adult and such a report could only be lodged by a member of Richard’s family.
Khobragade has claimed that she approached Richard’s husband to help file a missing persons report but he refused to cooperate.
25 June: Khobragade sent a letter to the police precinct requesting them to file a missing person report and trace Richard as the police had refused to register a report.
The Indian consulate and Khobragade continued to pursue the case and NYPD sought inspection of Khobragade’s residence. But diplomatic residences are out of bounds for local law enforcement agencies, the police interviewed Khobragade outside her residence and NYPD finally filed a missing person’s report.
1 July: A woman claiming to be Richard’s lawyer phoned to tell Khobragade that her domestic help would not move court if
i) CGI, New York would sign a form authorising Richard to terminate her employment,
ii) change her visa status from a government visa to a normal visa and
iii) be compensated for 19 hours of work each day. Khobragade refused to negotiate with her on phone and insisted the caller first identify herself. The caller disconnected the phone after this.
2 July: The phone conversation details were conveyed to the OFM in writing and New York Police Department (NYPD) help sought in ascertaining the identity of the caller and her links with Richard as the conversation clearly indicated that domestic help was keen to extort money by making false accusation. No action was taken.
Khobragade filed a complaint of forgery against Sangeeta Richard and her husband Phillip with New Delhi police.
5 July: Khobragade files extortion complaint with the NYPD about the phone call. No action taken by NYPD. She also filed another FIR in New Delhi against the Richards for wilful deceit and attempt to cheat to illegally immigrate to the US by wrongful means.
MEA claims it sought help from the US Embassy in New Delhi and authorities and the US State Department in Washington. It says it requested help from the US Embassy Human Resources Director Michael Phillips on 5 July.
8 July: Richard’s passport was revoked by the Indian Consulate and notice for termination of her personal identity card given to the OFM. This made Richard an illegal resident in the US.
Khobragade was called to ‘Access Immigration’, an immigration lawyer’s office to discuss the terms of settlement with Richard. The domestic help demanded USD 10,000, an ordinary Indian passport and other immigration clearances that may be required to stay in the US on that ordinary passport.
Khobragade was willing to pay her the money. But Indian officials from CGI, New York conveyed that under no circumstances could Richard remain in the US without legal authorisation and should return to India as required by her contract with Khobragade. She was told that any argument over salary could be settled in the consulate before her return to India. Richard refused, saying that she wanted to remain in the US.
The same day Khobragade’s husband reported to NYPD theft of cash, phone, two SIM cards, metro card (valued at $113) and documents such as contracts, signed receipt book cum working hour log by Richard. No action taken.
15 July and 19 July: Phillip Richard files writ petition in the Delhi High Court against Khobragade alleging that his wife Sangeeta was in police custody in New York from 8 July and charged the diplomat of slave labour and illegally making Richard sign a second contract with far less pay and perks. On 19 July Phillip withdrew his writ petition.
30 July: Khobragade conveys to OFM Phillip Richard’s police complaint that his wife was in NYPD custody.
4 September: The US State Department issued “a one sided” letter to the Indian Ambassador calling Richard’s allegations charging Khobragade of slave labour of “considerable concern”. It sought a voluntary meeting between Khobragade and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in the State Department as well as proof of payment of minimum wages from the Embassy.
10 September: MEA responded to the letter. In New Delhi, Joint Secretary (Americas) Vikram Doraiswami called in the US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission and Head of Human Resources Division to strongly protest the tone and content of the letter.
20 September: Khobragade also filed an anticipatory anti-suit injunction in the Delhi High Court so as to prevent filing of any case by Richard in the US and to avoid ensuing litigation in the US. The court issued an ex-parte ad interim injunction against the Richards restraining them from initiating any legal action or proceedings against Khobragade in any court outside India about her employment with Khobragade. Final hearing was scheduled for 13 December
21 September: MEA replied to the letter rebutting the allegations and highlighting that Sangeeta Richard was seeking monetary settlement and a US visa thereby seeking to subvert both Indian and US laws. It sought locating and repatriating Richard to India.
19 November: Non-bailable arrest warrant issued by Metropolitan Magistrate of South District, New Delhi against Richard.
6 December: New Delhi forwarded the arrest warrant to the US authorities to effect the arrest of Richard and repatriate her to India. No action was taken.
9-10 December: Richard’s husband and children fly out to the US.
12 December: MEA claims that instead of arresting Richard, the Diplomatic Security Service arrested Khobragade when she went to drop her daughter to school in New York. The arrest was made on the basis of a Second District Court warrant for visa fraud.
The Diplomatic Security Service officials told Khobragade that she didn’t have immunity under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations as she had been charged under a felony charge and that both the State Department and the Department of Justice were consulted to ascertain this.
Khobragade told them them she should not be handcuffed and that she was coming voluntarily. After reaching the police station she was strip searched by a lady officer and was sent to a holding cell where she was kept with two other lady convicts. When she was produced before the judge she was handcuffed. She was released on USD 250,000 bail. He passport has been retained by the police authorities and she has been asked not to leave the country or seek another travel document. She can travel with the US after notifying the authorities. She has been asked not to be in touch with Sangeeta Richard.
The next date of hearing is 13 January 2014. A pre-trial process has commenced on 16 December where the US authorities took a urine sample testing Khobragade for drugs.
13 December: Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh called the US Ambassador to India to express shock over the way Khobragade was humiliated by the US authorities.
16 December: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid raised the issue at his meeting with a visiting US Congressional Delegation.