Coronavirus: Supreme Court seeks govt. reply on plea to urgently fly back stranded Indian students in U.K.

A view of the Supreme Court of India.

A view of the Supreme Court of India.  

Petition says India is ‘probably the only country that has imposed an embargo on the return of its own citizens’

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government to respond to a petition to urgently evacuate hundreds of Indian students stranded in the United Kingdom due to lockdown and disruption following the coronavirus pandemic.

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A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde issued notice to the Ministries of External Affairs and Civil Aviation. They have to reply by April 13, the next day of hearing.

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The petition, filed by Supreme Court advocate Madhurima Mridul, whose daughter is one among many students stuck in the U.K., said India is “probably the only country that has imposed an embargo on the return of its own citizens, and where other countries are making all possible efforts to repatriate their citizens stranded in various countries, India with its travel bans has made it impossible for its own citizens to come back home.”

The petition, represented by advocates Sunil Fernandes, Asthma Sharma and Nupur Kumar, said countries with far greater incidence of mortality like China, Spain, Italy, Iran, South Korea and the United States had not imposed any embargo on the return of their nationals from foreign shores.

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The petition said there was a proposal to fly British nationals stranded here back to the U.K. between April 4-7.

If so, the same Air India flights, chartered by the U.K. government, could have ferried Indian students back to their home country, Mr. Fernandes argued.

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“It was unreasonable and arbitrary to not make optimum use of the national resources at this critical juncture,” the petition said.

Mr. Fernandes said the government should now come up with another evacuation plan immediately.

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Crammed in hostels

Ms. Mridul, in her petition, said students crammed in hostels with shared kitchens and bathroom facilities were more prone to get infected.

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“Various efforts have been made by these students to contact the High Commission of India in U.K. [operating under the auspices of the MEA], but no steps have been taken till date to repatriate these Indian students stranded in U.K. and they have only been issued advisories to follow National Health Service (NHS) and Public Health England guidelines and that they will be updated of any changes in the travel advisory,” the petition said.

The Centre had from March 22 imposed travel ban on international commercial air traffic till April 14.

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 8:04:01 AM |

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