Devyani Khobragade

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Devyani Khobragade
Native name देवयानी खोब्रागडे
Born Devyani Khobragade
Tarapur, Maharashtra, India[1]
Nationality India
Citizenship India
Occupation Indian Foreign Service Officer
Years active 1999-date
Employer Government of India
Organization Ministry of External Affairs (India)
Spouse(s) Dr. Aakash Singh Rathore
Children 2 daughters
Parents Uttam Khobragade (father)[2]

Devyani Khobragade is an Indian Foreign Service officer. She has been involved in a number of controversies, including the Adarsh Housing Society scam, criminal charges of US visa fraud and making false statements to the US State Department with regard to her domestic worker, and manipulation of Indian Foreign Service rules to get the foreign language of her choice.

Early life[edit]

Khobragade was born in Tarapur, Maharashtra[3] into a prominent Dalit Mahar family from Gadchiroli, Maharashtra.[4][5] She attended Mount Carmel High School in Mumbai. She obtained a degree in medicine from King Edward Memorial Hospital and Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College.[6] While doing an MS in Ophthalmology, Khobragade decided to become a civil servant.[1]

Career[edit]

Indian Embassy in Berlin
Indian Embassy in Rome
Indian Consulate-General in New York City

Khobragade joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1999 through the quota reserved for members of the Scheduled Castes.[4] She has been posted in Germany, Italy and Pakistan.[7] In 2012, she was posted to the Consulate General of India in New York where she worked as Deputy Consul General. She handled women's affairs as well as political and economic issues.[4] On January 20, 2014 she was posted to New Delhi as director of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA), an agency formed in 2013 at the Ministry of External Affairs to handle India’s projects overseas.[8] On April 6, 2013 Khobragade told the Indian Panorama newspaper that her "ambition is to have direct impact on a foreign policy for underprivileged women".[1] As a Dalit woman, Khobragade provided her personal perspective on Women's Rights and the Influence of Demographics in India at the Australian Consulate-General in New York on April 2013.[9] Khobragade was selected for the Chevening Rolls-Royce scholarship in 2012.[10]

Khobragade is proficient in English, Hindi, Marathi and German.[10]

Personal[edit]

Khobragade is married to an American citizen, New York-born Dr. Aakash Singh Rathore, who is research professor at University of Luiss, Rome, Italy. Aakash received a PhD in Political Philosophy (Louvain) and an LLM in Comparative Constitutional Law (Central European University, Budapest)].[11] He is also a wine enthusiast.[12][13][14][15] The couple met during Devyani's first diplomatic posting in Germany.[4] Since Rathore is a foreign national married to an Indian diplomat, he has applied for Indian citizenship which has not yet been granted since he has not completed the required domicile period in India.[16]

The couple has two daughters, ages 7 and 4.[4] The fact of their daughters holding both Indian and American passports has been questioned as India does not allow dual nationality for its citizens.[16]

Khobragade's father, Uttam, was a bureaucrat in the Indian Administrative Service.[4]

Khobragade has a sister named Sharmista.[17] Devyani's uncle, Dr Ajay M Gondane is also an Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1985 batch.[1]

Net worth[edit]

As of December 31, 2013 Khobragade owns more than 35 acres of agricultural land in Maharashtra, 7 acres of land in Kerala, a small plot of land in Uttar Pradesh, and 3 flats in Maharashtra, including one in the controversial Adarsh Housing Society, Mumbai.[18]

In 2006, Khobragade 's statement of immovable property made to the Ministry of External Affairs mentioned ownership of a flat in Vasant Vihar in Thane, a property in an Oberoi project, payment of Rs 1.25 lakh made to Joshi Richa construction, Rs 5 lakh to Mohid builders, and references to Rockline Constructions, Wellworth Developers and Windsor Gardens.[19]

A lot of her properties are inherited from or gifted to her by her father, Uttam Khobragade.[20]

Controversies[edit]

IFS 1999 batch language selection[edit]

Devyani Khobragade was implicated in the dismissal of Indian Foreign Service officer Mahaveer Singhvi on June 13, 2002 after he protested the dubious manner in which he was illegally denied his foreign language of choice in favour of Khobragade who was two places below him in the merit list.[21]

Devyani Khobragade and Mahaveer Singhvi were part of a batch of 10 officers who were appointed on September 21, 1999 to the Indian Foreign Service.[22] As part of a compulsory requirement to learn a foreign language, each officer was asked to indicate four foreign languages in order of their preference. Singhvi chose French, German, Arabic and Spanish in that order while Khobragade picked German as her first choice. As per the prevalent rules of allotment, Singhvi deserved to get German since he was two places higher on the merit list than Khobragade. However, the allotment rules were changed only for that year such that Khobragade got German while Singhvi was allotted Spanish.[22] Singhvi protested but was ultimately dismissed from service for misconduct in June 2002 without being given an opportunity to defend himself.[23]

Singhvi filed suit with the Central Administrative Tribunal but lost.[22] He appealed his case in the Delhi High Court, which ordered his reinstatement in 2008. The Indian Government then filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of India, which passed a ruling on July 29, 2010 upholding the Delhi High Court judgement. The Supreme Court imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Indian government and asked it to reinstate Singhvi as an IFS officer.[24]

In their ruling, Justices Altamas Kabir, J M Panchal and Cyriac Joseph said, "The mode of allotment was amended for the 1999 Batch in such a calculated fashion that Ms Khobragade, who was at Serial No.7, was given her choice of German over and above Singhvi, who was graded at two stages above her. Authorities were desperate to cover up the highly dubious and motivated manner in which the rules of allotment (of foreign language) were altered only in respect of the 1999 batch of IFS appointees in order to favour a particular candidate who was graded lower than Singhvi. From the facts as disclosed and the submissions made on behalf of the respective parties, there is little doubt in our minds that the order dated 13th June, 2002, by which the Singhvi was discharged from service, was punitive in character and had been motivated by considerations which are not reflected in the said order."[21]

Adarsh Housing Society scam[edit]

Adarsh Housing.
Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society in July 2011.

Devyani Khobragade owns a flat in the Adarsh Housing Society,[25] a housing complex constructed in a prime location of Mumbai. A 2013 inquiry commission report on irregularities and scams in the allotment process named Devyani Khobragade among 25 illegal beneficiaries, stating that she made a false statement in order to obtain membership of the housing society.[26][27]

Devyani Khobragade applied for membership in Adarsh society on July 29, 2004.[28] Her father, Uttam Khobragade, filled in her membership form and signed it on her behalf under power of attorney since she was posted at the Indian embassy in Berlin at that time.[29][30] She stated her annual income at that time as Rs. 1.8 lakhs. On July 30, 2004, her father Uttam Khobragade gave Rs. 50,000 as membership fees to Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, the society's chief promoter.[29]

Prior to applying for membership in Adarsh Society, Khobragade obtained approval for a membership of Meera Cooperative Society, Oshiwara, Mumbai on July 5, 2004 under the government's 10% discretionary quota. She was allotted a flat in May 2005.[28]

Khobragade submitted another membership application to Adarsh Society on August 29, 2004 acknowledging that she was a member of Meera Cooperative Housing Society and would resign this membership if granted membership of Adarsh Society.[30][31] In May 2008 Khobragade's membership in Adarsh Society was approved.[32] In September 2008, Khobragade sold her flat in Meera Society for Rs. 1.9 crore and paid capital gains tax of Rs. 30 lakhs.[31] In 2009[33] Khobragade was allotted flat number 2301 measuring 1,076 square feet in Adarsh Society building's 'A' wing.[30]

After the Adarsh Housing Society scam was unearthed in 2010, Devyani Khobragade and her father, Uttam Khobragade, were both asked to depose before the judicial commission investigating the scam. On August 8, 2011 Uttam Khobragade filed a one-page affidavit before the judicial commission.[29][34]

On July 5, 2012 Devyani Khobragade deposed before the judicial commission and claimed that she bought a flat in Meera Cooperative Housing Society, Oshiwara, Mumbai in 2005, a year after she applied for a membership in the Adarsh society.[28] The commission report stated that this statement was false, and that Khobragade became a member of Meera Society on July 5, 2004,[28] thus violating Maharashtra state government rules that require a government official applying for a flat in a cooperative housing society under the government discretionary 10% quota to submit a signed affidavit, stating that they do not own any other house or apartment. The report stated that Khobragade was ineligible for flat allotment on this account.[35]

On July 6, 2012 Devyani Khobragade once again deposed before the judicial commission and claimed that she was wrongly guided in her application for membership to Adarsh Society by Kanhaiyalal Gidwani who advised her to suppress the fact that she held membership in Meera Society through the government's 10% discretionary quota.[19]

On August 3, 2012 Uttam Khobragade deposed before the judicial commission and stated that he had not mentioned his daughter's membership in Meera Society at the time that he applied for membership in Adarsh Society on her behalf.[32][36] He also testified that he first discussed his daughter's membership in Adarsh Society with its chief promoter Kanhaiyalal Gidwani in May 2003.[37]

The 2013 Adarsh commission report stated that both father and daughter made no statement on the price they paid for the flat or the source of their funds. The report noted that Khobragade's Income Tax Return for April 2005 to March 2006 indicated that she was a "well-to-do person since she owns agricultural lands in New Delhi, Aurangabad, Thane, Pune and has investments of large amounts" but no loan was obtained for the purchase of the flat.[30][35] The report also noted that a copy of the Adarsh Society ledger shows that she made a total payment of Rs 1.10 crore towards the purchase of the flat in the period April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2011 but failed to disclose the source of funds.[35][38]

In her 2012 declaration of assets to the Ministry of External Affairs Khobragade stated that she paid Rs. 90 lakhs for the flat and that her source of funds was the proceeds from the sale of her flat in Meera Cooperative Housing Society, Oshiwara, Mumbai.[39][40]

In April 2014, India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) decided to file a chargesheet against Devyani and Uttam Khobragade based on documentary evidence that Devyani obtained a flat in Adarsh society on the basis of a false affidavit.[41]

US Visa fraud[edit]

On December 12, 2013, Devyani Khobragade, India's Deputy Consul General at its diplomatic mission in New York City at that time, was arrested on charges of visa fraud and perjury under Title 28, United States Code, Section 1746.[42] This incident led to a major diplomatic standoff between India and the United States.[43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Meet The Acting Consul General Of India In New York". The Indian Panorama. 6 April 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Father meets Shinde". Zee News. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Pooja Premchandran (April 6, 2013). "Meet The Acting Consul General Of India In New York". The Indian Panorama. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Gowen, Annie (20 December 2013). "Who is Devyani Khobragade, the Indian diplomat at the center of the firestorm?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Khobragade, Uttam (January 13, 2014). "My daughter's return". NDTV. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Who is Devyani Khobragade?". Times of India. 2013-12-19. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  7. ^ "10 things about IFS officer Devyani Khobragade: Her family, passion and favourite Hollywood actor". babus of india. December 14, 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Roy, Shubhajit (January 20, 2014). "Devyani likely to head MEA’s overseas projects department". Indian Express. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Acting Consul General of India in New York, Dr Devyani Khobragade Holds Conversation on Women's Rights and the Influence of Demographics in India with New York Young Leaders' Program". Australian Consulate-General, New York. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Devyani Khobragade, 2012 Rolls-Royce Scholar, Chevening Rolls-Royce Science and Innovation Leadership Programme". UK Government, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "More skeletons tumble out of Devyani Khobragade’s cupboard". Firstpost.com. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  12. ^ "2014 Sydney International Wine Competition". Winemedia.com.au. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  13. ^ "Devyani case resolution complicated by marriage to US-born 'wine philosopher'". The Times of India. 2013-12-22. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  14. ^ "The Complete Indian Wine Guide Review". Indianwine.com. 2006-05-20. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  15. ^ Keith Stewart (5 July 2013). "Sydney International Competition entries open". Winetech. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  16. ^ a b Roy, Shubhajit (13 March 2014). "Trouble for Devyani Khobragade as govt finds daughters have both US, Indian passports". The Indian Express. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  17. ^ "Devyani Khobragade - A doctor turned diplomat". IBNLive.com. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  18. ^ P T I (December 22, 2013). "Devyani Khobragade owns 11 properties including a flat in Adarsh society". IBN Live. Retrieved 2r December 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Shibu Thomas (Jul 7, 2012). "Adarsh member blames Gidwani for ‘incorrect info’". Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Devyani Khobragade’s properties and Adarsh flat". Moneylife.in. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  21. ^ a b "MEA 'bent' rules to favour Devyani Khobragade". Times of India. 22 December 2013. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  22. ^ a b c BV Rao (December 19, 2013). "SC ruling and why Mayawati is wrong on Devyani". Governance Now. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  23. ^ J. Venkatesan (August 5, 2010). "IFS probationer can't be sacked without inquiry". The Hindu. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  24. ^ Rakesh Bhatnagar (July 30, 2010). "Supreme Court restores job, benefits to IFS officer". DNA. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  25. ^ "Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade owned flat in Adarsh society". Financial Express. 2013-12-18. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  26. ^ Alok Deshpande (2013-12-21). "Devyani ineligible but owns flat at Adarsh Society". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  27. ^ Tejas Mehta (December 21, 2013). "Devyani Khobragade among illegal beneficiaries, says Adarsh probe panel report". Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  28. ^ a b c d Shibu Thomas (Jul 6, 2012). "IFS officer admits owning two flats on ‘govt land’". Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b c Shibu Thomas (Aug 9, 2011). "Ex-BEST GM says daughter not 'family'". Times of India. Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  30. ^ a b c d Sanjay Jog (January 4, 2014). "Adarsh scam: How politicians, their kin and officials became members by flouting norms". Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  31. ^ a b Jaideep Hardikar, Satish Nandgaonkar (December 20, 2013). "Diplomat’s flat in Adarsh report". The Telegraph. Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  32. ^ a b "Ashok Chavan’s wife gave a loan for purchase of flat in Adarsh". Hindustan Times. August 4, 2012. Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  33. ^ Saurabh Gupta (April 6, 2014). "Adarsh scam a tool to damage people's career: Devyani Khobragade's father to NDTV". NDTV. Retrieved April 6, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Did not use influence to get flat for daughter in Adarsh: Officer". Hindustan Times. August 9, 2011. Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  35. ^ a b c "Devyani Khobragade made false statement to get Adarsh flat: Panel". Times of India. Dec 21, 2013. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  36. ^ Shibu Thomas (Aug 3, 2012). "Seema Sharma, Uttam Khobragade to testify before Adarsh panel". Times of India. Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  37. ^ Krishna Kumar (August 3, 2012). "Bombay High Court asks CBI to file reply by August 29 in Adarsh scam". Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  38. ^ Saikat Datta, Shailesh Gaikwad (December 21, 2013). "Did Devyani lie in her assets affidavit to Centre?". Hindustan Times. Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  39. ^ Devyani Khobragade (Feb 28, 2013). "Statement of Immovable Property Returns for the year ending 31.12.2012". Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved Dec 19, 2013. 
  40. ^ "Devyani Khobragade's properties and Adarsh flat". Moneylife.in. Dec 19, 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  41. ^ Neeraj Chauhan (April 5, 2014). "CBI to charge Devyani Khobragade, her father in Adarsh scam". Times of India. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  42. ^ "Who is Devyani Khobragade?". The Times of India. Dec 19, 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  43. ^ Rajeev Sharma (Dec 17, 2013). "The US has gone overboard against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade". Firstpost. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 

External links[edit]