The Delhi High Court Tuesday asked the central government for a copy of the contract signed with an Indian domestic help who was working with a diplomat at the consulate in New York and has alleged that she was ill-treated. The court said the government had to take care of the maid as she was also Indian.
Justice Kailash Gambhir also sought the bank account details regarding the salary given to Shanti Gurung, who has alleged that she was not paid during her stay in New York when she was working with Neena Malhotra, the press counsellor at the Indian Consulate in 2006, and her husband Jogesh Malhotra.
The government had Monday approached the Delhi High Court seeking directions to restrain Gurung from pursuing the claim in a New York court.
A New York judge had last month recommended that Gurung deserved nearly $1.5 million for her “barbaric treatment”. The proposed award included $500,000 for the “emotional distress” inflicted on Gurung, who was a teenager when she was taken to the US.
Taking note of Gurung’s allegation that she had drastically lost weight, Justice Gambhir asked the central government to produce documents pertaining to her health records by March 14, the next date of hearing.
Additional Solicitor General A.S. Chandiok told the court that Gurung was the employee of the central government. “She was the service staff member of Indian consulate employee and the government of India paid her salary.”
“Can such an government employee ever be under the jurisdiction of foreign court?” Chandiok asked, saying that the New York court lacked jurisdiction to entertain her complaint.
Justice Gambhir said that as the government of India “you have to take care of the maid also, as she is also an Indian”.
Countering Gurung’s allegation that she was trafficked to the US against her will, the government’s petition said “the fact is she travelled to New York at the expenses of the government of India”.
“Gurung also alleged that she was not paid during her stay in New York as service staff to Neena Malhotra. Admittedly, Neena Malhotra was making payments as per mutually agreed terms and conditions in the form of regular transfers into a bank account in India,” the petition said.
The government said the couple enjoyed diplomatic immunity and any legal action against them could only be done in Delhi.
Gurung in her complaint in the US alleged that she was made to work without pay. Her passport and visa had been seized, her movements were restricted and she was constantly warned her that if she travelled on her own, without their permission, she would be arrested, beaten and raped.
In her lawsuit, Gurung had alleged that in bringing her over to the US in 2006 on an A-3 visa, Neena Malhotra instructed Gurung to tell the US embassy in New Delhi that she would be paid $7 per hour.
The complaint also said that with a steady deterioration in her living conditions from June 2006, Gurung was required to “perform substantially more duties than had been represented at the time of recruitment”.