April 14, 2020 1:28:50 am
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to pass any interim directions on petitions which urged it to ask the Centre to bring back Indians “stranded” abroad.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, which heard a batch of petitions in this regard, wondered whether such a direction would not weaken the travel ban imposed by the Centre to prevent COVID-19 transmission and asked those in other countries to “stay where they are”.
Appearing for the government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it is as not possible to bring them back right now and that they are being looked after wherever they are. He said that across the world, people are getting visa extension on account of the unprecedented situation resulting from the pandemic.
The bench, also comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and Mohan M Shantanagoudar, adjourned hearing on thee petitions which highlighted cases of Indians in Iraq, the Gulf countries, the US and the UK by four weeks.
The Centre also explained its stand in an affidavit filed in reply to the petition seeking return of students from the UK. It said, “given the present situation of coronavirus 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 due to various reasons. The severe risk posed by arrivals from an increasing number of countries affected by COVID-19 is something that the government is seeking to minimise. 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 said there are currently about 4 lakh Indian nationals, including about 50,000 students, are in that country (UK).
The government said that “a large number of students have been contacted by the High Commission directly and also through student bodies, the Indian National Students Association UK (INSAUK) and the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU UK) which are also providing guidance and help to the Indian students. In addition, there are community associations which are helping stranded Indians. Details of such associations, organisations, community support groups and individuals are on the High Commission’s social media platforms”.
The affidavit stated that most Indian citizens in the UK, including students, have regular accommodation provided by either their educational institutions, companies for which they are working, privately rented or other types. Some of them are also living with their family members some of whom are British citizens, it said.
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