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Arrest of a U.S. Citizen

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

If a U.S. citizen 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 U.S. citizen in finding legal representation. (All costs for attorneys are the responsibility of the U.S. citizen.)

Here is a list of local attorneys.

Contact the Consulate

If your U.S. citizen relative or friend has been arrested, please contact the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata at 033-3984-2400 (or closest consulate if not in the Kolkata Consular District).  If you are calling from the United States, dial 011-91-33-3984-2400.  Email:

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 while out on bail.

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 from the local government is available upon request.

General information on the range of emergency services available to U.S. citizens abroad is available here.

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