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Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

 While traveling or residing in India, American citizens are required to abide by Indian laws. If an American citizen violates Indian law, he or she is subject to prosecution.

If an American is arrested in India, the Consulate can help in specific ways. Someone will visit the arrested person to verify his or her well-being, to help with communication with family members, and to assist the American citizen in finding legal representation. (All costs for attorneys are the responsibility of the American citizen.)

If your American citizen relative or friend has been arrested, please contact the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai at 2857-4000. (When calling from the U.S., please remember first to dial 011-91-44.)

The Role of the Consulate

The role of the Consulate in an arrest is to ensure that: (1) the arrestee is accorded the rights and privileges guaranteed under Indian law as they apply to Indian nationals; (2) the arrestee knows the charges against him/her and is given reasonably prompt opportunity for defense; (3) the arrestee is not mistreated in jail or out on bail.

Here is a list of local attorneys (PDF 240 KB).

The Consulate cannot demand or obtain the release of a prisoner. A U.S. passport does not entitle its bearer to any special privileges. 

Important: The Indian government is obliged to notify an arrestee without delay of his/her right to communicate with an American Consular Officer, and promptly to inform the nearest American government representative when an American is arrested. In practice, however, this does not always happen.

The Indian legal system is based on English common law. The basic legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is in effect. An arrested person has the right to consult an attorney before making a statement. Any statement made to the police can be used against the defendant in court. Under Indian law, an arrested person must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours. Offenses are categorized as bailable or non-bailable. In practice, bail is often difficult to obtain for foreigners.

The law also requires prisoners to appear before the magistrate every 14 days. If the arrested person wishes to have a lawyer with him/her, legal aid is available upon request.

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