Djokovic visa row | Tennis

Novak Djokovic's visa cancellation upheld by Australian federal court

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic rides in car as he leaves a government detention facility before attending a court hearing at his lawyers office in Melbourne, Australia, on January 16, 2022.

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic rides in car as he leaves a government detention facility before attending a court hearing at his lawyers office in Melbourne, Australia, on January 16, 2022.

An Australian court upheld a government decision to cancel Novak Djokovic's visa on January 16, ending the unvaccinated tennis superstar's hopes of winning the Australian Open and racking up a record-breaking 21 men's Grand Slam titles.

The unanimous ruling by a three judge bench brought a rollercoaster ride to a disappointing climax for the world's top tennis player, who was first detained by immigration authorities on January 6, ordered released by a court on January 10 and then detained on January 15 again.

Djokovic said in a statement that he was "extremely disappointed" with the decision to cancel his visa to enter Australia. "I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country," he said, and wished the tournament all the best.

Djokovic had appealed Immigration Minister Alex Hawke's use of discretionary powers to cancel his visa on the grounds that he was a threat to public order because his presence would encourage anti-vaccination sentiment amidst Australia's worst outbreak of the virus.

Chief Justice James Allsop said the Federal Court ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of the minister's decision in the context of the three grounds of appeal Djokovic's team lodged.

"It is no part of the function of the court to decide upon the merits or wisdom of the decision," Mr. Allsop said, adding the decision was unanimous among the three judges. Full reasoning behind the decision would be released in coming days, he said.

The Serbian champion said he hoped the focus would now return to tennis and the Australian Open Grand Slam, which starts in Melbourne on January 17.

Ruling on a case that has gripped Australia and the sporting world for more than a week, a three-judge bench of the Federal Court heard government lawyers arguments that Djokovic's continued presence risked whipping up anti-vaccination sentiment during Australia's worst outbreak of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

A medical exemption that allowed the Serbian tennis world number one to enter the country without being vaccinated had sparked fury in Australia, and became a political issue for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has to call a federal election before May.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the Federal Court ruling saying the decision will help "keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe".

"It's now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer," Mr. Morrison said in a statement.

 


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Printable version | May 20, 2022 10:04:24 am | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/novak-djokovics-visa-cancellation-upheld-by-australian-federal-court/article38277681.ece