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Aircraft Public Health Rules Incorporated In The SOP For Evacuation Purposes: Centre Tells SC

Sanya Talwar
8 May 2020 2:19 PM GMT
Aircraft Public Health Rules Incorporated In The SOP For Evacuation Purposes: Centre Tells SC
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The Supreme Court on Friday took up for hearing a plea seeking directions to the Centre for formulating proper guidelines and protocols in order to evacuate Indian citizens stranded abroad.A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & BR Gavai took note of the Centre's submission that the draft rules vis-à-vis Aircraft Public Health Rules 2017 have been...

The Supreme Court on Friday took up for hearing a plea seeking directions to the Centre for formulating proper guidelines and protocols in order to evacuate Indian citizens stranded abroad.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & BR Gavai took note of the Centre's submission that the draft rules vis-à-vis  Aircraft Public Health Rules 2017 have been incorporated in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for evacuation purposes and as prayed for by the petitioner.

The bench accordingly disposed off the matter.

The petitioner is Sunil Azeez, an NRI businessman who is based in Sharjah. It has been drawn by Advocate Kuriakose Varghese and filed by KMNP Law AoR. It focuses on evacuation process in a phased and non-arbitrary manner by surfacing nuances of the existing domestic laws and policies and well as international frameworks.

Accordingly, the plea averred that since the country is currently being administered under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, "a coordinated and prompt response and right approach at a unified and integrated level" is need of the hour.

While emphasising that the present petition is different from various other evacuation petitions have been filed in the past, the petitioner contends that "the remit of this Petition is slightly different where the evacuation is only a part of the whole and - not the whole"

Moroever, it was contended that as the most vulnerable groups of people such pregnant women, senior citizens, skilled and semi-skilled workers etc. have been bearing maximum brunt of the pandemic, a fine-tuned and nuances approach is required in terms of protocols adopted for evacuation.

Apropos this, the petitioner highlighted that as "the lack of a legal framework and an identifiable institutional heirarchy" already burdens the institutional frameworks in motion due to "indetrminate rules", the petitioner sought to highlight the "legal vacuum" in which the proposed evacuation which "as of now is understood" may operate.

To effectuate this, a number of stakeholders including the National Executive Chairman (Union Home Secretary) as well as the Ministry of Civil Aviation have been impleaded in the petition.

In light of the above, the petitioner proposes the following suggestions as "broadline points in law at a macro-level":-

1) Need for unified Indian Law and the WHO's Health Regulations in order to provide the legal architecture where our laws intersect with international law - particularly international health laws

2) Aircraft Rules and adoption of DRAFTs of 2015 & correction of an anomaly that exists in Sections 35 & 75 of the DMA 2005

Petitioner avers that the the current Indian Aircraft (Public Health) Rules  of 1954 are not attuned woth the WHOs IHR 2005, even though new drafts were brought out in 2015 and 2017. They were however, not notified for "unknown reasons", contends the plea. "This dichotomy ought to be immediately corrected to align our domestic Rules with international best health practices by recourse to inter alia Section 35 & 75 of the DMA, 2005"

3) Need for inter-ministerial coordination in terms of tackling complicated tasks, host country regulations and cross-border tracel issues

"Proven and capable officers in each of these Departments are required to evaluate the issues on priority basis for effective executive action. DMA 2005 definitely provides for the same and there is no lacuna whatsoever or any shades of grey, which normally acts as inhibitors"

4) Urgent Constitition of a Sub-Committee vis-à-vis Section 9 of the DMA, 2005: "The Respondent No.1 is fully empowered to constitute the Sub-Committee including all the relevant Ministries mentioned including the MHA, MEA, MoCA, MoHFW and other relevant ministries/agencies/bodies and is in fact duty bound to do so"

5) State Governments - consensual Decision Making within DMA - 2005: "Chief Secretaries of the top five States that have the highest emigration/returnees could be identified (as a reasonable classification) based on identifiable intelligible differentia or such other criteria as shall be fair, just and reasonable"

6) Formulating clear protocol/guidelines for all furture evacuation contingencies.

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