Coronavirus | 1142 Indians brought back from Iran, Centre tells Supreme Court

A status report filed by the Ministry of External Affairs in the Supreme Court said there were 6,000 Indian nationals in various provinces of Iran. | File   | Photo Credit: West Asia News Agency/Reuters

The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it has already facilitated the return of 1142 Indians — 787 pilgrims, 219 students and 136 others — from Iran and they are quarantined in various locations in the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A status report filed by the Ministry of External Affairs in the Supreme Court said there were 6,000 Indian nationals in various provinces of Iran. They included 1100 pilgrims mainly from the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and the State of Maharashtra, 300 students primarily from J&K, and over 1000 fishermen from Tamil Nadu (744), Kerala (70) and Gujarat (215).

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“The Indian Embassy and Consulates in Iran are working round-the-clock under very difficult and trying conditions. Given the scale of COVID-19, the local authorities and resources in Iran are naturally stretched. Public services are not functioning normally. There are difficulties in accessing some parts of the country due to large distances involved, suspension of public transport services and inter-provincial lock down,” the MEA report, which was reproduced in the Supreme Court order, said.

250 have tested positive

The report was submitted before a Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in response to a writ petition filed by relatives of pilgrims stranded at Qom in Iran. The relatives had asked the court to direct the government to look after the pilgrims’ welfare and evacuate them in the wake of Corona virus spread.

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But the government, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, submitted that 250 pilgrims in Qom have tested positive for COVID-19 and, in some cases, relatives accompanying them, though Corona negative, have opted to stay back to take care of them.

“The status report [of the MEA] indicates that the Union Government will, in due course, facilitate their safe repatriation to India, consistent with its overall approach to prevent, control and contain the spread of COVID-19 within India,” the 10-page court order said.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, for the relatives who hail from Leh, however, submitted that many of the pilgrims in Qom may now be asymptomatic and would be in a position to return. He suggested that the Union Government may consider arranging a special flight for the return of the 250 pilgrims, but they may be quarantined on returning home.

Court satisfied

However, the court expressed satisfaction with the government’s assurance that the welfare and safety of the stranded pilgrims in Qom would be taken care of by the Embassy there.

“We expect that the issue of repatriation of these pilgrims will be actively considered by the Union Government at the appropriate stages in terms of the assurance provided in the status report. The proactive steps taken by the Indian Embassy in Iran under the auspices of the Ministry of External Affairs need to be commended,” the Supreme Court recorded.

The status report also mentioned that the External Affairs Minister had reassured the parents of some Indian students stranded in Iran during his visit to J&K on March 9.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 12:55:19 AM |

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