NEW YORK/DELHI – Holding a senior Indian diplomat guilty of subjecting her maid to slavery, a US court has ruled that the victim be awarded a compensation of $1.5 million. The diplomat, Neena Malhotra, was press counsellor with India’s consulate in New York and is currently working as director with MEA’s southern division in South Block.
The judge held that the victim, Shanti Gurung, be awarded the money for having suffered “barbaric treatment” at the hands of her employers, Malhotra and her husband Jogesh. The proposed award includes $500,000 for the “emotional distress” inflicted on Gurung by the couple, The New York Post said.
The ruling by Manhattan federal magistrate Judge Frank Maas, though, is subject to approval by another judge who is overseeing the case. Gurung had come to New York City in 2006 to work as a domestic help, according to court documents.
After Gurung claimed exploitation, the foreign ministry had said media reports on allegations against the senior diplomat “did not appear to be in conformity with facts”.
Maas said Gurung, who is now in her early twenties, was a victim of “outrageous and shocking conduct”. Her “documents were seized, her travel was restricted, and she was not permitted to telephone her family”.
“Significantly, Gurung was also deprived of food, which caused her to lose more than sixty pounds in just over three years and was subjected to physical and mental abuse,” Maas said, adding that Gurung’s compensation should also include $500,000 as damages for “emotional distress”.
According to the court papers, Gurung came to the US at the “behest” of Neena and Jogesh Malhotra and was promised a monthly salary of approximately $108 in exchange for “light cooking, light cleaning, and staffing the occasional house party”. However, Gurung’s work from the outset was “far more arduous” than the Malhotras had represented it would be.
She was made to work 16 hours a day and in addition to her cooking and cleaning duties, was “required to give Neena Malhotra daily massages, a chore that made her extremely uncomfortable”, the court papers said.