Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Krittika Biswas: The Story You Did Not Know

Ravi Batra, the lawyer representing Krittika Biswas, speaks of what the student really went through and their fight for justice in this exclusive account

Ravi Batra has a point to make and he won’t rest until he has made it. The Manhattan lawyer represented Krittika Biswas, the 18-year-old honour student and daughter of vice consul Debashish Biswas, falsely accused of sending two obscene e-mails when she was not near a computer.

Despite repeatedly stating she was innocent, asserting diplomatic immunity and wanting her father and the Indian Consulate notified, Krittika was handcuffed on February 8, 2011 and taken away from her school to spend 28 hours in a miscarriage of justice that included a dirty, cramped cell.

No rights given

The call from Indian Consul General, Ambassador Prabhu Dayal, to Batra came in at 8.53 am on Tuesday February 9, 2011. “Prabhu told me that a daughter of one of his vice consuls had been arrested the day before and was to be produced in Queens Criminal Court,” says Batra.

Despite numerous efforts by Ambassador Dayal, his consuls and her family, no one had been able to see Krittika. That was when they made the call to Batra.

Neither Batra nor Ambassador Dayal were aware of Krittika’s innocence or the details of the case. “All we knew was that it had something to do with obscene emails. I knew that she had rights under US law and New York State law, but as to the Vienna Convention rights, I had to confirm,” says Batra.

Queens criminal court

Batra went into emergency research mode. “Family members of a consul at a consular post, have immunity from arrest or detention unless a judge issues a warrant for arrest, and that too for a ‘grave crime,’ a felony,” says Batra.

The interpretation of the Vienna Convention was later to become a point of contention between the US State Department and Batra, and if "the plain language of the Vienna Convention isn't followed," that Batra said "will force him to sue in federal court."

“I asked to meet the chief prosecutor, District Attorney Richard A. Brown and permission was granted,” says Batra.

First phone call

Krittika happened to make a call to her father while they were in the DA’s conference room waiting to see DA Brown, whom Batra knew well.

Batra seized the opportunity to speak to her. “Krittika answered all my questions in a matter-of-fact manner, sort of like a detached zombie in shock,” recalls Batra.

The lawyer learnt one fact: Krittika Biswas was innocent. “She was out shopping when the obscene e-mails were sent,” he says.

Facebook Wall issue

Batra told the DA that he represented the defendant, Krittika Biswas, and not the Government of India.

The lawyer gave the DA a copy of India’s Note Verbale and told him that India was asserting diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention and that from what he then knew, Krittika was actually innocent of the criminal charges so he did not need immunity to win.

The DA raised the issue of comments that Krittika had apparently posted on Facebook. Batra pointed out that Krittika was at a mall and that security cameras would have footage.

Charges dismissed

Batra describes DA Brown as an “American hero” for administratively dismissing charges. “This happens in once in 10 million cases. The DA “sealed” her file so Krittika can legally say she was never arrested,” he states.

The DA also gave Batra immediate visitation rights.

Meeting Krittika

Batra met with Krittika and told her of the good news “She accepted it without a smile,” he says.

Later, the lawyer watched Krittika walk out of jail. Her mother and father, along with the "Consul Uncles," were there waiting to embrace her. “She didn’t run to them. She walked as if she was in a trance. They were hugging her but she wasn’t hugging them back,” he says.

School suspends Krittika

Despite having charges dismissed, the school suspended Krittika for a month and sent her to reform school. “We defended Krittika from February 10-March 11 to prove her innocence,” says Batra.

A forensics engineer was hired to track emails, and alibi witnesses were contacted. Receipts of items brought with time of purchase would match the video footage of her and her alibi witnesses on the mall’s security cameras.

March 11 hearing

During the hearing on March 11, Batra gave the school his forensic expert’s report that showed that Krittika’s ISP was “Road Runner” and the criminal emails’ ISP was “Earthlink.”

“We gave the IP address of the computer from which the emails were sent from. Using our “key,” the school found the real culprit, Shang Ming, in one day” says Batra.

Ming confessed the day after.

Justice for Krittika?

It took Batra six weeks to prepare and file a Notice of Claim. Usually this is a two-three page document. Theirs is 97 pages. The question was: how much will the jury award to Krittika Biswas? “I set the floor with USD 1.5 million not the ceiling,” clarifies Batra.

“The teacher and principal filed two false reports against Krittika – one was for her arrest and one for her suspension. The principal supported both despite the DA dismissing charges,” says the lawyer. It is a crime in New York to file a false report. DA Brown has jurisdiction to investigate if crimes were committed.

Krittika’s plans

Krittika had approached Kim Ross for a recommendation letter for Macaulay’s Honors College at City University of New York last October, and Kim Ross had written such a letter of recommendation; although, she hid that fact in her two false reports.

Now with what has happened, Krittika is thinking of going back to India and studying there. “Her dad told me that she asks him: ‘Why did you bring me to New York, so I can be handcuffed?’” says Batra.

According to Batra, Krittika now has renewed strength, with all the backing she has had from Amb. Prabhu Dayal, the Indian Government, and most of all, everyday people of India.

“In court, she has nothing to worry about, for I will make sure that she gets a full measure of American justice,” says Batra.

The results will be seen in the five months when the claim goes to court. If the State Department revises its interpretation "that black is white, and white is black," then the case will be in New York State Supreme Court.

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