FIR filed against UNFPA India chief as agency claims immunity

Patna, Feb 23 (IANS) An FIR was filed against UNFPA India chief Diego Palacios here on a complaint of harassment by an activist even as the UN agency dismissed the charges and claimed diplomatic immunity for its personnel.

The case was filed by Prashanti Tiwari, of 'Bandhan Tod' against Palacios and others for harassment. 'Bandhan Tod' acts against child marriage in Bihar.

"I have lodged a case of sexual harassment and mental torture against UNFPA India chief in Patliputra police station," said Tiwari, following a "clarification" issued from New York by the spokesman for the United Nations Secretary General that in sexual harassment cases, UNFPA officials did not have an immunity.

This was, however, contradicted by him the next day saying that only the UN chief could remove the immunity.

Tiwari had earlier requested External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to waive immunity of the UNFPA India chief so that she could "initiate a trial in an Indian court". Ravish Kumar, the spokesperson of Ministry of external Affairs on Thursday said that they had forwarded the complaint from Tiwari to UNFPA, which responded on 20th February and the reply had been forwarded to Tiwari.

IANS has a copy of the reply from UNFPA where it has claimed immunity from legal proceedings citing various international conventions and UN privileges and immunities act 1947. The UNFPA in a somewhat vague reply to the accusation said Tiwari was never an employee and that Palacios "had met her only once."

Patliputra police station officer in charge T.N. Tiwary said that a FIR has been lodged against Palacios.

Speaking to IANS, Tiwari maintained that the Indian Constitution has guaranteed her Right to Equality before law, which is challenged by the immunity granted to UN officials. "It is up to the Indian Government to decide if they will accord supremacy to Indian Constitution or to the special status of UN officials which prohibits any legal proceedings against them."



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