Bringing citizens back could pose risk to population here: Govt tells SC
The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that evacuation of Indian students and expatriates stuck abroad amid the lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease could pose a risk to India’s domestic population.
Echoing the Centre’s concerns, the bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and justices LN Rao and MM Shantanagouder said, “Stay where you are”.
The Centre made the submission in response to a batch of petitions seeking return of Indian students stranded in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the U.K alone, there are close to 4 lakh Indian expatriates including 50,000 students.
Several petitions were filed in the apex court seeking the court’s intervention for evacuation of Indian migrants stranded in the Middle East, Indian fishermen in Iran and students from the US and the UK.
The petitioners criticized the travel ban on return of citizens at a time when other countries were making arrangements to get evacuate their citizens from India.
The Centre, in its status report said that the country had evacuated citizens from China, Iran, Japan and Italy when the condition in India was not as grim.
“However, given the present situation of the corona virus 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 a number of countries want to return back due to various reasons,” the report by the Centre said.
The Centre’s status report said that passengers from these countries are 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 bench also noted the logistical constraints in arranging quarantine facilities for all returnees. It was for this reason, the Centre proposed to the Court, “The approach of the Government has, therefore, been to advise the Indian nationals to stay put where they are in line with Government’s approach to contain the further spread of the virus within India and allowing health machinery to focus on domestic containment effectively.”
The government informed the court that the Indian High Commission in London is making all arrangements to ensure the well-being and safety of stranded Indian students. The Centre’s status report did not make specific averment about extension of visas of Indian students stuck in the US.
The court will hear a petition for these Indian students stranded in the US, filed by senior advocate Vibha Dutta Makhija next Monday. The court will also hear a petition seeking the return of some 860 Indian fishermen stranded on the shores of Bandar-e-Moqam and Lavan Island in Hormozgan province of Iran.