A decision on the repatriation of Indians stranded abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be taken for one state alone, said the Central Government before the High Court of Kerala on Friday.
A bench comprising Justices Raja Vijayaraghavan and T R Ravi was hearing three writ petitions which sought, inter alia, directions for the return of Keralites stranded in Gulf Cooperation Council nations.
The petitioners sought a special consideration for Keralites stranded in Gulf countries, in the light of the fact that Kerala Government has expressed willingness to take them back, and also due to availability of better infrastructure to quarantine the returnees.
In response, the Central Government Counsel, Suvin Menon, submitted that there cannot be discrimination between states on the policy formulated by the Central Government regarding evacuation of Indians from abroad.
The CGC further submitted that the Centre has taken a policy decision not to repatriate Indians from COVID-19 infected countries right now so as to minimize the risk of local spread of the novel coronavirus disease.
The Court was told that the Central Government has appointed Nodal Officers in Indian Missions in foreign nations to ensure the welfare of Indians. The Gulf countries have extended the visa period till May 31 taking note of the pandemic situation, the CGC added.
The CGC also pointed out that the similar petitions filed in the Supreme Court by Congress MP M K Raghavan and Pravasi Legal Cell were adjourned by the SC for four weeks.
Central Government has taken a decision not to repatriate Indians stranded abroad due to COVID-19. Government has appointed Nodal Officers in Embassies to ensure the welfare of the citizens in foreign nations : Central Govt Counsel tells Kerala HC.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) April 17, 2020
Central Government has taken a decision not to repatriate Indians stranded abroad due to COVID-19. Government has appointed Nodal Officers in Embassies to ensure the welfare of the citizens in foreign nations : Central Govt Counsel tells Kerala HC.
"All Indian citizens,both within India and abroad, have been advised to stay where they are during the lockdown to minimize chances of contracting coronavirus",said the statement filed by the Centre before the Court.
On April 11, the HC had sought the response of the Centre on the petition filed by Ibrahim Elemattil, President of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (Dubai). Advocate Harees Beeran, appearing for the petitioner, had submitted then before a bench comprising Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly that the Emirates Airlines had expressed readiness to operate flights to bring back Indians from UAE.
Today, the bench had considered two more petitions seeking similar reliefs - one filed by PP Suneer through Advocate Thulasi K Raj and another by A E Abdul Kalam through Advocate Aboobacker.
The bench has posted these matters to April 22.
In the statement filed before the Supreme Court, the Ministry of External Affairs has stated that it was not feasible to bring back Indians from abroad, as it poses a grave risk to the local population.
Click Here To Download Order
Click here to download Statement
Read Statement filed by Centre