Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to Central Government in a writ petition seeking evacuation of Indian students stranded in United Kingdom (UK). The writ petition was filed under Article 32 of Constitution of India alleging that amid outbreak of COVID-19, the Government of India has imposed travel ban on all international commercial passenger air crafts till 14th of April, because of which many Indian students, including the daughter of the petitioner studying in the UK, are stranded and are unable to return home to their families and are struggling for basic sustenance.
The petitioner in the writ petition is seeking following reliefs:-
- Direct the central government, to immediately evacuate all the stranded Indian students, from the United Kingdom to India, either through the flights scheduled to ply between 04th to 07th April, 2020 from Delhi and Bombay to Heathrow Airport, London or at any date(s) without any undue delay.
- Direction to ensure that till such time as the requisite arrangements are made for evacuation of such students, the Indian students stranded in the United Kingdom are provided with accommodation, adequate health and medical support, if needed by the Indian High Commission in London.
- Direct the central government to ensure that the students are quarantined and provided all medical and health facilities are prescribed by the WHO.
The petition says that according to WHO, corona viruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in humans, known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (“MERS”) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (“SARS”). The most recently discovered and widespread corona virus is the COVID-19. The first few cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China on 31.12.2019. Soon thereafter, the virus engulfed 185 countries, and the WHO on 11th of March, declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. On 19th of March the Government of India – DGCA imposed a travel ban on all international commercial passenger aircrafts from any foreign airport for any airport in India for one week till 29th March.
The Petition further says that the Respondents which includes Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Civil Aviation have a duty to come to aid and rescue Indian citizens who stranded abroad in such extra-ordinary circumstances as the present one, and can certainly quarantine those who return from abroad, impose reasonable restrictions on movement and liberty and further make them undergo such medical protocols as may be necessary, but to pass a blanket order of preventing an Indian citizen from returning back to his homeland is violative of Articles 14 & 21 of the Constitution of India.
Next date of hearing in the matter is 13th of April, 2020.
–India Legal Bureau