Chauffeur’s $18k battle against Indian government
Sydney's Indian Consulate General is refusing to give a former worker more than $18,000 in unpaid wages and legal costs, flouting multiple court orders in what he condemns as a complete disregard for Australian law.
In 2016 ex-chauffeur Hitender Kumar launched legal action against the consulate, which flagged it would rely on foreign state immunity if penalised under the Fair Work Act.
Despite making formal concessions that it owed Mr Kumar more than $12,000 during an August 2017 Federal Circuit Court hearing and receiving the first of many payment orders in April 2018, the consulate still hasn't handed over a cent, court documents show.
The frustrated dual citizen says that figure continues to rise with interest yet the consulate has stubbornly ignored all correspondence, its solicitors have withdrawn from the case and it hasn't shown up to subsequent court dates.
"The approach is to stick its head in the sand and hope it all goes away," Mr Kumar told The Daily Telegraph.
"They have no respect for Australian law."
The situation got so bad that last April Justice Rolf Driver ordered the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to withhold funds from the consulate in order to repay the climbing debt.
Justice Driver slammed the "intransigence" of the Indian Consulate General, "for which there is no evident justification."
"The utility of the making of further orders, which are likely to be ignored, as the orders to this point have been, is highly questionable," he said in one judgment.
In October Mr Kumar was granted leave to apply for a further garnishee order, as he says the consulate has now closed six bank accounts with CBA.
"I am very frustrated. They are doing it intentionally," he said.
The consulate's behaviour deliberately disregards the industrial laws of this country, is highly disrespectful to Australia's judicial system and is a huge waste of taxpayer money, Mr Kumar's barrister Ross Dalgleish said in a 2018 affidavit.
"The respondent is an arm of the government of India. It is not (poor)," he said.
"There is no evidence of contrition or corrective action … this heightens the need for specific deterrence."
Justice Driver found that between 2010 and 2015 Mr Kumar wasn't paid overtime and was sometimes paid below the minimum wage before his five-year stint as the consulate's chauffeur cum messenger was cut short.
"They sacked me, and I won the first case for unfair dismissal. They paid that one," Mr Kumar said.
The 54-year-old alleged he'd been fired for blowing the whistle on questionable practices at the consulate, including the use of a consular car e-TAG on a private vehicle and issuing passports without police checks.
Mr Kumar says the long-running legal saga inspired him to study law while working part time as an Uber driver.
Disappointed and running out of options for justice in Australia, Mr Kumar says this year he'll consider filing a lawsuit in the Indian courts to see if he can get results there.