The petition seeking the urgent evacuation of Indian students stranded in the United Kingdom amid the global pandemic was filed by Advocate Madhuria Mridul. These students, one of whom was petitioner’s family member could not return to India as all International Flights had been stopped from March 22 by the Government of India, and the students, who had tickets to travel back to India, were stranded at the UK airports.
The petitioner argues that India is the only country to have imposed an embargo on the return of its citizens, while the other countries were trying to bring their citizens back from other countries, and such an act of restricting their entry to India is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
Other such Cases disposed of by the Indian Courts
In Shehla Saira v. Union of India, a writ petition was filed in the High Court of Delhi for evacuating Indian students studying in Kazakhastan after the imposition of travel restrictions in the country. The same was disposed of after the Ministry of External Affairs informed the court about the efforts and steps being undertaken by the government to assist the Indians abroad.
Another such petition filed in the High Court of Delhi was in the case of Gaurav Kumar Bansal v. Union of India. This was to evacuate and to provide assistance to Indian Students in Bangladesh, particularly those in the medical colleges. This was also disposed of after acknowledging the steps undertaken by the government.
In the case of Ramesh Chander Goyal v. Union of India, a writ petition was again filed in the High Court of Delhi, challenging the circular of DGCA imposing travel restrictions on international flights to India by the government of India and also for evacuating the petitioner’s son from Scotland.
In the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir, a writ petition was filed in the case of Azra Usmail v. Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir to deal with different issues related to COVID-19 in the territory itself. The court had ordered the Ministry of External Affairs to provide assistance to Indians in New York and to look into their evacuation from there.
Supreme Court answers to why Evacuation is not reasonable
Some countries have reported a very large number of cases including deaths, which puts passengers from these countries particularly at higher risk of infection. Travel back of such passengers to different regions of India poses a grave risk to the country of a population of over 1.3 billion.
The present situation of the coronavirus outbreak in India and the available limited resources, it is not feasible to selectively evacuate Indian citizens from abroad when a large number of them from several countries want to return due to various reasons.
The Government needs to focus on containing the further spread of the virus within India and allowing health machinery to focus on domestic containment effectively.
Steps taken by the Indian Government
To ensure greater access and precision of information and creation of sub-groups dealing with different regions of the world, the Ministry of External Affairs has created a COVID-19 cell.
Indian nationals abroad are being mobilized by the High Commissions of India to help Indians in distress in that country. Assistance is being provided to Indian nationals abroad by Nodal officers who have been identified and designated at each Mission. Ensuring the functioning of 24×7 helpline numbers and emails.
The Supreme Court held that all the Indian citizens who are stranded in different Countries due to the coronavirus outbreak and the nationwide lockdown imposed should “stay where they are”, as it will not be feasible to selectively evacuate those citizens who want to return to India.
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