28 February 2024

Indian essential worker to be deported for a single drink-drive conviction

An Indian “exemplary” essential worker convicted for one charge of driving a motor vehicle with excess breath alcohol in January 2019, is now required to leave New Zealand.

A humanitarian appeal filed by 31-year-old Indian citizen, Naveen Janagam against his liability for deportation before the Immigration and Protection Tribunal has been declined. However, the Tribunal directed the grant of a four-month work visa to the appellant, effective on the date of this decision, that would end on 21 October this year.

In January 2019, the appellant was charged with driving a motor vehicle with excess breath alcohol (his alcohol level was 903 milligrams per litre of breath, maximum being 400) and driving in a dangerous manner. In July 2020, the appellant was convicted on the one charge of driving a motor vehicle with excess blood alcohol and was sentenced to 28 days’ disqualification from driving and fined $900.

Janagam was returning home after having some beers from a friend’s house on that fateful day when trying to attend a phone call from his wife back in India changed the entire course of his life.

He was driving his Nissan car (wearing bluetooth headphones)when his phone rang, he tried to reach but it slipped from the holder. In his efforts to retrieve, his car hit the kerb and a motorist called the police.

Later that evening when he was breath tested by the Police, he was found to be more than three times the legal limit. He later pleaded guilty in court on advice of his lawyer.

Janagam, a resident of Warangal, Telangana(India) arrived in New Zealand in May 2014 as a student and completed a Level 7 Diploma in Business in April 2015. Following the grant of Post Study work visas in 2015 and 2016, he was granted an Essential Skills work visa in August 2018, valid until 7 August 2021.

Janagam began working in a freight forwarding company in 2015, got married in September 2018, and continued working until his subsequent Essential Skills work visa application was declined in September 2021 for not meeting the character requirements.

In spite of expressing remorse, assurances and having undergone the penalties (a 28-day driving disqualification and a $900 fine)Immigration New Zealand declined to grant a character waiver to Janagam.

In their support letter his employer company confirmed Janagam was a valuable employee, his work was “exemplary” and that he would be “warmly welcomed” back should he secure a visa.

Naveen Janagam became unlawful in New Zealand from 5 October 2021 after INZ advised him it had declined his reconsideration request.

His wife departed New Zealand on 5 February 2022 and since then has given birth to twin girls.

Hindsight, it is believed Janagam could have applied for a discharge without conviction and that would have saved him of this ordeal.

In their June decision, the Tribunal rejected his appeal as it found no grounds of exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature to permit his stay.

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