A lawyer may go to federal court in the case of a John Bowne High School senior who is the daughter of a top-level Indian diplomat and who intends to sue the city for $1.5 million over what he describes as her wrongful arrest and suspension from school on bogus charges that she “cyberbullied” her teachers.
The lawyer, Ravi Batra, said he may elevate the case beyond its initial destination of Queens Supreme Court in light of alleged misinterpretations of the Vienna Convention by the U.S. State Department.
Batra argues in a statement that the Vienna Convention “plainly grants the family members of a consul the same rights, privileges and immunities granted to the actual diplomat serving in a consular post. This includes the right to be ‘free of arrest’ or ‘detention’ without a judge-issued warrant for arrest and that is limited only to ‘grave crimes.’”
Krittika Biswas, 18, of Flushing, was arrested Feb. 8 after school officials wrongly identified her as the culprit behind disturbing and violent anonymous e-mails sent to two teachers at the Flushing school, according to the notice of claim Batra filed May 6. A notice of claim is a document that must be filed six months before a party files suit against the city.
Biswas is the daughter of Debashish Biswas, the vice consul at the Consulate General of India in Manhattan, who was not notified until hours after she was arrested even though she declared her diplomatic immunity and asked to contact him, according to the notice of claim.
She was arrested because she was one of two students in both of the teachers’ classes who lived in a building where school officials originally said the e-mail originated and because she speaks French and one of the e-mails included a French curse word, according to the notice of claim.
She was not read her Miranda rights and was held for 28 hours at Queens Central Booking and later forced to stay at a suspension center for more than a month even though the charges were dropped, the notice of claim said. Batra intends to seek $1.5 million in damages and the removal of the school’s principal, Howard Kwait, and calculus teacher Jamie Kim Ross, he said in a May 24 statement.
The city Law Department did not return requests for comment Tuesday.
“Out of the blue as if in ‘The Twilight Zone’ in December, the school raised the issue of cyber-bullying — threatening, disgusting e-mails received by two teachers, Kim Ross and Mr. Ivan Cohill, the gym teacher,” Batra said in the statement. “Krittika, having been illegally charged, arrested, handcuffed, jailed, suspended, questioned, intimidated, depressed, her education damaged, and with a home and soul torn apart, then walked away to live out this experience for the rest of her life.”
The notice of claim also alleges that an NYPD officer engaged in “torture” by over-tightening Biswas’ handcuffs and barring her from using the bathroom for hours while she was in custody.
The case amounts to a massive violation of Biswas’s rights, according to Batra, who said the State Department has taken the position that she is not protected under the Vienna Convention simply because she was a family member of someone with diplomatic immunity.
“I may now be compelled to [go to] federal court because the State Department is giving an impression of the Vienna Convention, which is at odds with the letter of the Vienna Convention,” Batra said Tuesday. “They’re saying essentially black is white and white is black and that’s not an interpretation, that’s a violation, and that’s a real problem for me.”
Harry Edwards, a press officer for the U.S. State Department, spoke on behalf of the agency.
“We’re aware of press reporting regarding the filing of a lawsuit by the daughter of an Indian consular. However, we have no comment on this ongoing litigation,” he said.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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