Arrest same-sex partners of US diplomats: Yashwant Sinha

After taking a slew of steps to reduce the privileges enjoyed by American diplomats in a retaliatory measure, reports suggested that the government can now mull action against gay US diplomats who bring along their same-sex partners.

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: India is no mood to relent. After taking a slew of steps to revoke the privileges enjoyed by American diplomats here in a retaliatory measure, reports on Wednesday suggested that the government can now mull action against gay US diplomats who bring along their same-sex partners.

Notably, homosexuality has now been criminalised by the Supreme Court of India.

India on Tuesday upped the ante against the US, seeking an "unconditional apology" over the arrest and humiliating strip-search of its ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha suggested that India could now arrest same-sex partners of American diplomatic officials.

"Companions` means that they are of the same sex. Now, after the Supreme Court ruling, it is completely illegal in our country. Just as paying less wages was illegal in the US, so, why doesn`t the government of India go ahead and arrest all of them?" he said.

With the Supreme Court once again criminalising same-sex relationships under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), it is to be seen if the Indian government will now take action against self-declared gay American diplomats who have sought diplomatic immunity for their same-sex partners.

With India threatening more actions against US diplomats until Washington renders an "unconditional apology" over the mistreatment of an Indian diplomatic official in New York, there is talk in official circles of invoking Section 377 of the IPC to book these diplomats and their partners under Indian laws, well-informed sources confirmed to a news agency.

Diplomatic relations between countries are governed under the Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention for Consular Relations under the principle of reciprocity. So when a country is seen to act against the Conventions against a country`s diplomats or embassy, the other country is well within its right to take reciprocal measures against the country.

Officials said the Indian government has in its knowledge many such American diplomats who have declared they had same-sex relationships and have sought immunity and other diplomatic facilities for their partners.

"We know who they are and, if we want, we can take action against them under Indian laws," said one source with access to official thinking, not wishing to be named because of the delicate nature of the issue involved.

"But the fact remains that, under the law of the land, these are now illegal relationships and hence these people can be subject to criminal prosecution for which they do not enjoy diplomatic immunity," the source told a news agency.

Officials, especially those who have dealt closely with the US, said Washington only understands tough language and gave the example of how the US suddenly withdrew certain tax privileges to Indian diplomats about 10 years ago. In retaliation, India imposed service tax liabilities on the US embassy operations here.

When the US embassy petitioned the government against the tax, they were told it could only be done if the tax privileges to Indian diplomats were restored. The US subsequently restored those privileges and New Delhi followed suit.

The latest diplomatic fracas escalated after Devyani Khobragade, the deputy consul general in New York, was arrested, handcuffed and humiliatingly strip searched, under what the US police calls its "standard procedures" after she was found to violate visa regulations for her Indian househelp.

(With IANS inputs)

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