The High Court of Kerala on Tuesday directed the Central Government to file a statement giving specific details of the financial and medical assistance granted through embassies to Indians stranded in Gulf nations amid the COVID-19 situation.
A bench comprising Justices Devan Ramachandran and T R Ravi also asked the Kerala Government to provide information regarding number of health workers and the details of quarantine facilities available with it to deal with the possible return of Keralites from Gulf Cooperation Council nations.
The bench was hearing four writ petitions seeking directions for the repatriation of Keralites from the gulf countries.
Advocate Harees Beeran, appearing for Ibrahim Elemattil, President of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, urged that the Centre should adopt a 'state-specific' policy on the repatriation of Indians. He stressed on the fact that United Arab Emirates has issued a general advisory to all countries to take back their citizens. Emirates Airlines has expressed its readiness to operate special flights to India, he pointed out.
On the previous day of hearing, the Centre had submitted that it was no possible to discriminate between states on the matter of return of Indians from abroad.
Responding to that, the counsel highlighted the readiness expressed by the Kerala Government to accommodate about 2 lakh foreign returnees and also the dwindling numbers of COVID-19 cases in Kerala.
"Kerala's situation is not comparable to other states. Also, public health is a state subject. If the State is satisfied, Centre should not be objecting", he said, urging the Centre to dilute the blanket restriction on re-entry.
He further said that the petition was seeking relief for specific categories of persons such as those who had gone in search of jobs for few days, people needing emergency treatment, pregnant women and those in labour camps without jobs. Directions for their return in a phased manner were sought for.
Petition seeks relief for specific categories of persons.1. Those who had gone in search of jobs for few days, and who have got stuck there.2. People needing emergency treatment, and also pregnant women.3. Those in labour camps who have lost jobs.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 21, 2020
Petition seeks relief for specific categories of persons.1. Those who had gone in search of jobs for few days, and who have got stuck there.2. People needing emergency treatment, and also pregnant women.3. Those in labour camps who have lost jobs.
In response, Suvin Menon, Central Government Counsel, reiterated the stand that repatriation of Indians from abroad is not possible at the present time.
"The effect of lockdown will be diluted if Indians from abroad are allowed to return now", the CGC said.
Advocate Thulsi K Raj, appearing in a connected matter, submitted that India is the only country which is not allowing its own citizens to return. Right to family re-unification is an important fundamental right, the counsel added.
In response, Justice Devan Ramachandran remarked that India has evacuated several citizens before and cited the example of students from Wuhan.
"When country is under lockdown, situation is different", the judge added.
The bench then sought to know about the level of preparedness of state government in dealing with the foreign returnees, upon which the Additional Advocate General undertook to file a statement.
The bench also sought specific information from the Centre regarding the extent of relief and aid granted through Indian missions abroad.
"All of us are together here for a solution. But the solution has to be practicable", Justice Devan added.
The case will be next heard on April 24.