SC rejects plea of businessman, says not entitled to diplomatic immunity

  • | Tuesday | 7th December, 2021

New Delhi, Dec 7 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that a Seychelles national, who is a businessman and is facing investigation in criminal cases registered here, is not entitled to claim “diplomatic immunity” in India.The apex court said that petitioner C Sivasankaran had raised the issue of diplomatic immunity before the Madras High Court which had in 2019 dismissed his separate plea and that order has not been challenged by him.A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar noted that the CBI has placed a communication issued by the Ministry of External Affairs which refers to another communication received by it from the Seychelles government informing that the petitioner is Ambassador-at-large of that country and has been issued a diplomatic passport but his presence in India was not on any official duty on behalf of that government.The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, said there is no reason to doubt the correctness of the position stated in the communication and reiterated in the affidavit filed before the top court.“As a matter of fact, the judgement of the Madras High Court stares at the face of the petitioner which has remained unchallenged and as aforesaid, we are in agreement with the view so expressed by the Madras High Court in relation to the status of the petitioner herein,” the bench said.“It must therefore follow that the petitioner cannot be heard to invoke the argument of diplomatic immunity and if that contention fails, the further reliefs claimed in the writ petition to quash the concerned criminal actions cannot be taken forward,” the apex court said.The bench also expressed serious concern about the manner in which the proceedings have been handled before it and noted that the petition was filed without annexing the copy of the high court judgement.“Further, in the rejoinder affidavit filed, the petitioner has annexed copy of the legal opinion given by the former judge of this court, which cannot be countenanced at all and needs to be deprecated in strong terms. We do so,” the bench said.It also placed on record the “sincere apologies” given by the counsel appearing for the petitioner concerning the aforesaid error committed by the advocate-on-record or the advising counsel to the petitioner.The bench said that reliefs claimed in the petition were founded on the arguments that the petitioner enjoys diplomatic immunity and cannot be proceeded with before the courts in India, much less by way of criminal action.It noted that this very argument was canvassed by the petitioner before the high court, which after considering all the relevant aspects, had rejected the plea in November 2019.“As aforesaid, on facts as well as on law, the petitioner is not entitled to claim diplomatic immunity and as a consequence thereof, the challenge founded in the writ petition cannot be taken forward,” it said while dismissing the plea.During the arguments, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the petitioner is not a diplomatic agent under the Vienna convention.The counsel appearing for the petitioner referred to the prayer in the writ petition which said that he be granted immunity as per the Vienna convention and the Diplomatic Act.“That point has been decided by the Madras High Court against you,” the bench orally observed. PTI ABA ABA RKS RKS

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