The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir has directed the Central government to take immediate steps for evacuation of Indian students who stand stranded in Iran, amidst the spread of Coronavirus.
Iran is the second epicenter of Coronavirus in the world. Apprehensive of its spread among Indian students, Dr. Zahoor Hussain Mir, guardian of a student stated to be pursuing her higher studies in Iran had written a letter to the Chief Justice of the J&K High Court.
Having regard to the seriousness of the issue, the high court suo moto registered the writ petition in public interest.
The division bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal has issued notices to the Central Ministry of External Affairs, Health Ministry, Ministry of Civil Aviation, and the authorities of the UT of J&K and UT of Ladakh. Advocate Monika Kohli has been appointed as amicus curiae.
The court has asked the Central Ministries to identify the protocol to be followed, examine the mode to forthwith implement the same and take steps for evacuation of the Indian students stranded in Iran.
The court has also asked them in the interregnum, to ensure availability of materials including masks, medication and essential commodities including food etc. to all Indians especially the students, who are stated to be stranded there.
"These emergency conditions stand created by the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) and identification of Iran as the second epicenter in the world, steps for evacuation of the Indian Nationals including the children from the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are required to be undertaken by the respondents.
All the necessary and appropriate measures required for evacuation of the Indian students from Iran to India be initiated," the order read.
The court has further directed the Administration of both the UTs to identify and ensure creation of proper facilities for isolation and quarantine in the Government and private sector, testing laboratories as well as availability of the health care and medication for prevention of the COVID 19 disease and treatment of the persons infected/carrying the infection.
"It is imperative that steps are immediately taken to ensure creation of isolation/quarantine facilities in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh. It is essential also to anticipate and ensure availability of preventive equipments/medications and facilities for treatment of the infection.
It is equally, if not more important, to equip, empower as well as protect medical and health experts, nursing and other paramedical and other personnel who would be coming into direct contact with infected persons," the court ordered.
Dr. Mir had written to the high court,
"Due to sudden outbreak of COVID 19 in Iran as second epicenter in the world as all air traffic has been suspended from Iran towards other nations including India. It's once again brought to your kind notice that there are many pilgrims. labours, and students stranded in Iran. They are facing the shortage of masks, medicines and other essential commodities due to mass closure/ shutdown by government authorities. It's is requested that arrangements may he made to evacuate the stranded persons/students on priority as the infection is spreading very fast according to WHO (world health organization)."
Vide another letter he had prayed the court to evacuate the stranded students at the earliest as was done in case of students stranded in Wuhan, China.
Considering the seriousness of the issue, the court has asked the authorities to take immediate steps and keep it appraised with any developments.
The court further noted that the Health Ministry has already devised a Containment Plan-Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) and it has issued directions to the State/District to prepare an event specific micro-plan and to implement the containment operations.
In this backdrop, the court has directed the UT Administration to take immediate in compliance of the containment plan.
The directions issued by the court are as under:
i) Respondent nos. 1 to 3 are therefore, required through the Indian Embassy in Tehran, Iran and their offices, to ensure availability of the required materials including masks, medication and essential commodities including food etc. to all Indians especially the students, who are stated to be stranded there.
ii) Respondent nos. 1 to 3 to identify the protocol to be followed, examine the mode to forthwith implement the same and take steps for evacuation of the Indian students stranded in Iran.
iii) Respondent nos. 4 to 7 are directed to identify and ensure creation of proper facilities for isolation and quarantine in the Government and private sector, testing laboratories as well as availability of the health care and medication in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh for prevention of the COVID 19 disease and treatment of the persons infected/carrying the infection.
iv) Respondent nos. 4 to 7 to take immediate steps for acquisition of and to ensure availability in sufficient numbers and quantity of N-95 (or any other recommended) masks, for the public and separation kits for all medical personnel and staff. v) Respondents nos. 4 to 7 shall also take immediate steps for spreading information regarding the nature of the COVID 19 infection; the manner of its spread; preventive measures and steps to be taken if an individual is infected.
v) Respondent nos. 4 to 7 shall also inform this Court with regard to the steps taken in terms of the Containment Plan issued by respondent no.2.
vi) We appoint Ms. Monika Kohli, Advocates as amicus curiae in this matter.
The matter is now listed for March 12.
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