A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court comprising of Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice T R Ravi continued hearing a batch of writ petitions seeking the return of Indians stranded in the United Arab Emirates to India. The petition sought the return of specific categories of persons, namely, people in labour camps, those needing emergency treatment and pregnant women.
Countries all over the world are going through tough times due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people are stranded in foreign countries far away from home. Among them are about thirty-four lakh Indians in the UAE.
A State-Specific Policy
On the previous date of hearing, Advocate Harees Beeran asserted that the Centre should be following a policy that is “state-specific”. He pointed out that the state’s administration was willing to accommodate two lakh Indians and re-iterated the fact that Kerala was combating the COVID-19 crisis quite effectively in comparison to other states. He argued that public health was a state subject and there should be no objection from the Centre when the state government was confident of accommodating those who return.
Advocate Suvin Menon, appearing for the Centre, stated that the benefits accrued to the country due to the lockdown would be decimated if lakhs of Indians were allowed to return to the country.
Indians in foreign countries
Advocate Thulsi Raj K, appearing in a connected writ petition stated that the Centre should ease the restrictions on travel because the UAE had requested countries to arrange for their citizens to be taken back. He contended that India was the only country not allowing its citizens to be reunited with their families during times of distress, even though Emirates airlines were willing to resume operations to facilitate their return.
Justice Devan countered this by stating that such restrictions came in only after the implementation of the lockdown and the Centre had taken measures to evacuate Indians from various countries prior to its declaration. He went on to state that the situation is different when the entire country is locked down.
A practical solution
The Bench enquired about the State Government’s capability to accommodate those who would return from the UAE and directed the Additional Advocate General to file a statement regarding the state’s current facilities to accommodate them. The Central Government was required to file a detailed report on the support it had given the Indians stranded in the Gulf country.
Scheduling the next hearing for 24th April, Justice Devan added that the Court was keen on reaching a solution that was practical in the current circumstances.
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