Kerala HC Declines To Entertain Plea Seeking Direction To Centre For Mandatory RT-PCR Test Of Citizens Coming From Abroad

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday declined to entertain plea seeking directions to Centre to take effective steps to conduct mandatory RT-PCR test (Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction test) on passengers not more than 4 days before embarkation process to India at their cost and to take all precautionary measures to ensure proper quarantine of NRIs who arrive in Kerala to prevent the spread of Covid 19.

A Division-Bench of Kerala High Court presided by Justice Anu Sivaraman and Justice M. R. Anitha while closing the writ petition observed that “The Standard Operating Protocol has apparently been framed after proper application of mind and due consultation with medical experts. The concerns expressed by individual States are matters to be addressed by the Central Government in the joint endeavour to fight the present pandemic. We have no doubt that proper procedure will be put in place and revised in a time bound manner by the Central Government after considering the situation prevalent and taking note of the requests made by individual States as also expert medical advice and the available relevant data.”

The contention of the petitioner C. R. Neelakandan is that the Standard Operating Protocols for movement of Indian nationals in the Vandhe Bharat Mission does not require proper screening through RT-PCR tests of those who are permitted to travel under the said scheme. Petitioner also submits that several countries are resorting to testing of inbound passengers to ensure that carriers of the virus are not permitted to enter the country and lack of testing before boarding is a serious danger, since if there are asymptomatic passengers who are permitted to board after the inconclusive temperature test alone, there is every chance of the virus being transmitted to other passengers during travel and that this is a further issue which has to be addressed by the Central Government by making necessary amendments in Standard Operating Protocol.

The counsel for Central Govt clarified that only asymptomatic passengers are permitted to travel as per health protocols issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Department of Military Affairs will be strictly followed. Further the passengers from UAE will undergo prior rapid antibody testing before their departure and passengers tested COVID negative only permitted to travel. Most countries do not advocate mandatory RT PCR tests before departure. All passengers are expected to undergo thermal screening before boarding. The pre embarkation health checkup are conducted by the Officials in the Foreign Airports/Ports, from which the Flight or Ship is departing. The Officials in the Foreign Airports are screening the passengers in accordance with the health protocol in vogue in the said Airport/Port.

-India Legal Bureau