New Delhi, Mar 28 (PTI) In a major relief to civil servant Devyani Khobragade, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has asked the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to promote her as a Joint Secretary within two months if she is found fit for the job.

The direction came on her plea alleging that when her batch was considered for promotion to Grade-III of the Indian Foreign Service, that is the Joint Secretary rank for he vacancy year 2016-17, her case was not considered and kept in a sealed cover, apparently due to the pendency of enquiry proceedings against her.

The MEA had initiated proceedings against her for giving interviews to the media without taking permission from the Ministry, as also for her “misleading” statement that it was permissible for her children, who were both under 18 years of age, to retain both Indian and US passports.

The disciplinary authority (DA) had in November 2017 imposed the penalty of reduction to a lower stage in the time scale of pay by one stage for a period of one year without cumulative effect and not adversely affecting her pension on her.

The bench, while noting that there was an “inordinate and unexplained” delay of about 20 months at the end of the Ministry in acting on Khobragade’s March 2015 reply on the charges, said the penalty imposed by the DA shall be treated as effective from September 2015 with its currency ending on August 2016.

“From the inordinate delay of 20 months at the end of the respondents (Ministry), we are fully convinced that the respondents have not shown any alacrity or seriousness to complete the proceedings against the applicant (Khobragade) in a reasonable time frame.

“Even the time prescribed in the guidelines have not been adhered to. This delay has severely prejudiced the case of the applicant for promotion to the next higher grade,” the bench, headed by CAT Chairman Justice Permod Kohli, said.

It said if the time frame was adhered to by the Ministry, she would have secured her promotion along with her batch-mates as the currency of the punishment would have ended by that time.

“The sealed cover relating to the promotion of the applicant (Khobragade) to the grade of Joint Secretary shall be opened and if she is found fit for promotion, she shall be promoted to the grade of Joint Secretary with effect from November 1, 2016 when her batch-mates were promoted to such grade.

“This shall be done within a period of two months from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this order. It is also clarified that the applicant shall be entitled to all consequential benefits,” the bench, also comprising member K.N. Shrivastava, said.

Khobragade was deputy consul general in New York in late 2013 when she was arrested by US authorities for allegedly underpaying her Indian maid in a fraudulent manner.

Her strip-search, which had followed the arrest, had created an uproar in India with the then UPA government threatening similar action against US diplomats and scaling down the immunity enjoyed by them here.

Khobragade’s children live in the US with their father while she is not allowed to travel abroad pending the case against her in the US. She has also moved the High Court against denial of Indian citizenship and passport to her children by the MEA.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.