A senior IFS officer was shifted from the MEA’s passport and visa division this week for refusing a visa to the spouse of a gay American diplomat on the ground that such marriages are not legal in India.
Incidentally, the officer, Neena Malhotra, who was joint secretary in the division, was fined $1.5 million by a New York court in 2011 in a controversial maid abuse case when she was a counsellor in the Indian consulate there. She has appealed against the verdict but has not been travelling to the US.
MEA sources said the American diplomat, who was posted with USAID in Islamabad, applied for a diplomatic visa for his spouse following his transfer to New Delhi.
Malhotra, they said, refused to clear the visa application as gay marriages are not legal in India and the diplomat’s spouse could not be IFS officer denies visa to partner of gay diplomat, is moved out granted a diplomatic visa and recognised as a spouse in India.
A senior official in the MEA’s Americas division suggested that although there is no rule in India to give visa to a gay couple, the diplomat’s partner could be given visa as a family member as it had been done in the past.
Special secretary in-charge of Administration, P S Raghavan, is said to have supported this and wrote to Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh seeking her intervention.
When it was suggested the diplomat couple be given an entry visa, Malhotra is said to have agreed saying the visa application should be referred to the home ministry and she would give her no-objection letter.
With the issue making no headway, Malhotra was shifted out to the relatively low-key archives and record management division.
MEA officials, however, denied any link between the transfer and the visa case.