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‘Molest’ envoy stays free

- Diplomatic shield for Bahrain consul-general

Mumbai, Dec. 25: Bahrain’s consul-general in Mumbai was booked more than a fortnight ago on the charge of molesting and misbehaving with a woman but has not been arrested thanks to the diplomatic immunity he enjoys.

Mohammed Abdul Aziz Al Khaja was booked on December 9 following a police complaint by a 49-year-old woman facility manager of a residential complex in Mumbai’s upscale Malabar Hill area.

According to the complaint, Khaja lost his cool after one of the lifts at the building was shut for repairs on December 9.

He allegedly vandalised the woman’s office, flying into a rage and flinging a book in her face before shoving her.

Foreign consular officials in India (except the Americans now) enjoy immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which means they cannot be arrested or prosecuted on any charges.

In the US, though, foreign consular staff are accorded immunity only under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which allows them to be arrested and prosecuted if the alleged offence was not committed in the line of duty and is deemed a grave crime.

It was on this ground of lesser immunity for consular officials that Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested in New York on the charge of visa fraud and underpaying her Indian nanny.

New Delhi has now retaliated by downgrading the immunity accorded to American consular staff in India to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

The downgrade, however, does not apply to consular staff from any other country. So, Khaja can be arrested or prosecuted only if Bahrain’s ambassador to India agrees to waive the diplomatic immunity the consul-general enjoys in India.

“A case has been registered against Khaja, but he has not been arrested as he is a diplomat,” Malabar Hill police station senior inspector Vinay Bagade told The Telegraph today.

Khaja has been a resident of the Malabar Hill building for the past five years while the woman has been working there for 10 years.

The diplomat has been booked under Indian Penal Code sections 354 (assault or use of physical force on a woman with intention to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), Bagade said.

The complaint says: “Keeping in mind that the building was over 40 years old, we had recently changed the elevators…. On December 9, Khaja was waiting for the lift. Suddenly, I heard a loud banging noise and when I came out to see what had happened, I saw Khaja slamming the door of the lift. I politely asked him not to do so, but he continued.”

Bagade said: “The woman rang the police station 20 minutes after the incident. We reached 15 minutes later and recorded the statement of both parties. There was enough prima facie evidence, so we booked Khaja. Khaja in turn asked for police protection, saying he feared retaliation from the complainant.”

Last Friday, the complainant again came to the police for help, alleging that Khaja had approached her and was keeping on calling her, asking her to withdraw the case, Bagade said.

“I was scared and tried ignoring him. Finally, after the chairman and secretary approached him, he left,” said the woman in another complaint, adding that she was seeking police protection against Khaja.

This newspaper tried contacting Khaja but he refused to respond. The complainant too failed to reply to text messages today.