Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade not first in maid row, tax payer paid Prabhu Dayal $75,000 tab

Written by Amitav Ranjan | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 22 2013, 17:45pm hrs
Devyani KhobragadeDevyani Khobragade (AP)
It could ultimately fall on the Indian taxpayer to bail out Devyani Khobragade, the diplomat accused of underpaying her domestic help and falsifying documents to get the maid into the US.

A complaint of a similar nature against another Indian diplomat by his maid two years ago in New York had resulted in an out-of-court settlement, with the government of India footing the bill.

In December 2012, the Ministry of Finance approved the payment of $75,000 from the budget of the Ministry of External Affairs to a former domestic assistant who had filed a lawsuit against Indias consul-general in New York, Prabhu Dayal, alleging inhuman treatment.

The settlement agreement stipulated that the deals details would not be disclosed, or discussed with the media.

The maid, Santosh Bhardwaj, filed a lawsuit in June 2011, accusing Dayal of sexual harassment and demanding a massage from her in January 2010.

The complainant accused Dayal and his wife of making her work for long hours for $300 a month, taking away her passport, and forcing her to sleep in a storage closet. Bhardwaj demanded over $250,000 in damages and relief, but subsequently withdrew her charge of sexual harassment against the consul-general.

Dayal said the maid had run away because he had refused to let her work outside the consulate, which would have allowed her to make some extra money, but would have violated visa rules.

He denied having treated Bhardwaj badly, and said that she lived very comfortably in her own furnished room in the consulate, and was paid according to the rules.

Following an out-of-court settlement advised by the US court, the MEA, on November 21, 2012, sought Finances sanction for $ 75,000 to settle the matter, official sources said. The argument was that the government should pay, because the consul-general had hired the maid in line with the government scheme of allowing servants during the overseas postings of diplomats.

The MEA argued that the allegation against Dayal was false, and he had been caught in blackmail resorted to by domestic helps in collusion with NGOs in the US. It backed the out-of-court settlement, saying that fighting a long legal battle would be costlier.

With the approval of the Department of Expenditure, the money was paid from the MEAs miscellaneous head, the sources said.

Despite several attempts, Prabhu Dayal, who retired from service after his New York stint, could not be traced for a comment. His whereabouts were not available even in the retired diplomats directory.