A court in Australia has ordered India’s ex-high commissioner to Canberra Navdeep Singh Suri to pay a former domestic employee thousands of dollars in compensation after she accused him of unfair working conditions, according to Australian media reports.
People familiar with the case in New Delhi said it was an ex-parte proceeding in the Australian court and filing of the case by the employer was an “after-thought”.
Justice Elizabeth Raper of the federal court ordered Suri to pay Seema Sherghill more than 136,000 dollars plus interest within 60 days, ABC News said.
Ms Sherghill had travelled to Australia in April 2015, and spent about a year working for Mr Suri at his Canberra home, it said.
Mr Suri said Ms Sherghill was a government service staff and was paid as per the government policy. She had refused to sign a mandatory undertaking committing to return to India and went missing after leaving the India House without notice, he said.
“The court’s decision is ex parte. The official view was that contesting the case would tantamount to acknowledging the jurisdiction of a local court over a diplomatic mission. This could have implications on the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations. Government of India has also taken the view that Ms Seema deserted her employment and that Australian authorities cannot adjudicate on this matter,” said Mr Suri.
People familiar with the case said Ms Sherghill was issued an official passport and was asked to return to India in 2016, but she defied government orders. She took Australian citizenship in 2021 and there are reasons to believe that she filed the case with an intention to stay back in that country, they said.
According to them, if the employee had any grievances, she should have returned to India and approached competent authorities or any court.
There was no reaction from the Ministry of External Affairs on the ruling by the Australian court.
The Federal Court heard Ms Sherghill worked seven days a week, for 17.5 hours per day, the media report said. She was initially paid the equivalent of about 7.80 dollars per day before she complained and Suri increased her rate to 9 dollars per day, it said.
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