The cases of the nationals of Saudi Arabia leave one with disturbed minds. First Secretary Majed Hasan Ashroor, was accused of raping two Nepalese women who were his domestic help. He held them captive in an apartment in Gurgaon (Delhi NCR) where he sexually assaulted them. Since Ashroor was a Saudi Diplomat, he enjoyed Diplomatic Immunity. This immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensure diplomats are given safe passage and are not predisposed to law suit or prosecution under the host country’s laws, even though they can be expelled. Thus he fled India before any action could have taken against him. This immunity has been ratified under 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations, agreed upon by 187 countries. The treaty states clearly that diplomatic agent including “the members of the diplomatic staff, and of the administrative and technical staff and of the service staff of the mission” enjoy “immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State.” They also enjoy immunity from civil proceedings unless the case involves property or business interests unrelated to their diplomatic duties.
Clearly, the victims of the rape were in the worst of conditions and were treated as sex slaves, not given food and sometimes survived only on water. They were gang raped, tortured and kept cramped for three months. A case has been registered against the Saudi Diplomat, wife and daughter under sections 376 D (gang rape), 376 (rape), 377 (unnatural rape), 342 (wrongful confinement), 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 323 (causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, what really will happen will be understood in due course of time. So far nothing concrete has come up. Thus one should try to analyse such provisions like diplomatic immunity and see how it provides a cover to people who commit such heinous crimes and get away with it and should be really thought after.
While this case hardly died out, very recently a case has caught the attention of people and the media at large. The story of an Indian domestic help named Kashturi Munirathinam whose right arm has been chopped off by a Saudi woman employer because she complained against torture and harassment and tried to escape. The woman’s family belongs to Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district. The lady took up the job in Saudi Arabia three months prior the incident due to financial constrains.
The Ministry of External Affairs expressed its displeasure and the Indian Embassy in Riyadh has taken up the case and has demanded proper investigation and framing of charges of murder.
Both the incidents bring out two major issues. Firstly, it also compels us to think about how rations like the diplomatic immunity create a kind of unjust society. How it gives immunity to a handful of people to do anything they want to and get away with it. Also on one hand, terms like justice and equality are values of highest priority yet on the other hand it is required to see how the society, the institutions set up for dispensing these values have totally failed to deliver.
Secondly, it reflects the sheer brutality that exists today. The way domestic helpers have been treated, it is important to see that such people are given enough rights and protection within and outside their country. This is where the whole discourse of human rights should be focused on and ensure strict laws shall be made so that such incidents do not happen again. Not only shall such laws be made, it is important that they are properly implemented so that it creates awareness among people of their rights so they exercise it to the fullest.