SC asks Indians trapped abroad to stay safe, to wait for the opening of airspace

NEW DELHI: Monday declined to order Union government to evacuate Indians - students Fishing Pilgrims and Other Professionals: Caught in the UK, the US USA, France, Iran and others, and advised them to remain still wherever they are.

The 's remark came after solicitor general Tushar Mehta explained that at this point of time, it would not be possible for the government to open airspace for landing of aircraft from foreign countries. He said some of the countries, where India n nationals and students and other professionals have been stuck, have reported high incidences of Covid-19. "Travel back of such passengers to different regions of India poses grave risk to the country with a population of 1.3 billion," he said.

Mehta said, "A very large India n community stays abroad (13 million), including NRIs and India n students . In the UK alone there are about four lakh India n nationals, including about 50,000 students . It is true that the government initially undertook some evacuation operations of India n nationals from China, Japan, Iran and Italy when the situation of Covid-19 in India was not so grim.

Many of the people evacuated from these countries were taken and quarantined in India. However, given the current situation of the pandemic outbreak in India and the limited resources available, it is not feasible to selectively evacuate Indian nationals from abroad when large numbers of them from various countries want to return due to various reasons, he said.

The government has decided to minimize the serious risk posed by arrivals from countries affected by COVID-19. The decision to advise Indian citizens to stay where they are is in line with the government's approach to containing the further spread of the virus within India and when the health machinery is focused on effective domestic containment.

A bank led by S A Bobde via videoconference heard a plethora of requests with an attorney requesting the opening of airspace to allow Indians trapped abroad to return with payment of the cost of the plane ticket. But the bank declined to say it would violate the government's total blockade policy, including closing airspace for civilian traffic.

Indian businessman Kamal Vijayvargia, who in 2008 was the guardian of 'Baby Manjhi' who had landed in a row after being born to an Indian surrogate mother, applied to the SC for permission to come to India on a chartered plane from Tokyo. He said he had been trapped in Tokyo since March 21. He said he was staying with a local, one of whose relatives tested positive and feared that the forced extension of his stay could endanger his life with Covid-19 disease.

Appearing for a petitioner who wanted her son and similarly placed students In UK to be brought back, advocate Sunil Fernandes said that India is the only country which was refusing to allow its citizens stuck abroad to get back home. The bench asked, "there is a huge expatriate India n population all over the world. How could all be brought back home when there is a lockdown and travel ban in force."

SG said the India n High commission in UK is working with organisations, community support groups and individuals across UK so that stranded India n citizens could be reached and assisted as far as possible. It has activated two helplines for India n students , most of whom are staying in their institution provided accommodations.

Fernandes asked even if there is a national emergency, can the fundamental right to be in one's own country be suspended? He said there is more chance of the India n students contracting Covid-19 disease in UK than in India . "All those who are to be brought back could be kept in quarantine homes and should be allowed to go home after proper screening," he said. But, the SC was not ready to give any relief to the petitioners at this stage and adjourned hearing by four weeks.