The Centre has informed the Madras High Court that it was not possible for it to organise any evacuation of Indian nationals from any foreign country in the current COVID-19 lockdown situation.
The submission was made in a counter to a PIL seeking steps to bring about 350 Indians stranded in Malaysia after visiting the country on tourist visa.
A Special Bench of Justice R Subbiah and Justice R Pongiappan, before which the PIL came up for hearing, adjourned the matter after two weeks after going through the counter.
In the counter, filed by Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan on behalf of the Union Home Ministry, the government submitted that after the global outbreak of COVID-19 it has proactively taken steps to ensure safety and wellbeing of Indian nationals abroad as well as people in the country.
It said all types of passenger movements through designated immigration land checkposts on the country’s borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar border have been suspended so as all scheduled international commercial passenger flights.
Some of the countries have reported a very large number of cases including deaths, putting passengers from these countries particularly at higher risk of infection.
Travel back of such passengers to different regions of India poses a grave risk to the country having a population of over 1.3 billion.
“In such a lockdown situation, it is not possible for the government of India to organise any evacuation of Indian nationals from any country,” the counter said.
Petitioner Gunasekar, an advocate, submitted that while the Malaysian government flew back all its nationals stranded in India by arranging a special flight, the centre was not taking any steps to bring its nationals in Malaysia.
According to him, his client Mullainathan had telephoned him from Malaysia on April 4 and informed that he visited Malaysia on a tourist visa and that now he was unable to come back due to the lockdown.
Besides his client and his family, there were over 350 Indians stranded in Malaysia due to the cancellation of the flight operations following the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Supreme Court had on Monday observed that Indian citizens stranded in various countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic should “stay where they are” after the Centre said it would not be feasible to “selectively evacuate” those who want to return due to various reasons.
The centre’s response was to a batch of pleas seeking evacuation of Indian citizens from different countries, including United Kingdom and Gulf nations.
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