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The Supreme Court today refused to pass any directions on the plea for evacuation of vulnerable citizens from the USA saying that these are not matters that can be entertained at this time.
The three Judge Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and BR Gavai today took up the PIL by Senior Counsel Vibha Datta Makhija for hearing via video conferencing.
The Court had, in the previous hearing, sought a response from the Centre on the specific issue of visa conditions and assistance to the stranded Indian citizens in the USA. Today, the Court was told by Makhija that while visa extension costs a high amount of money, there is still is no guarantee as regards the confirmation of such an extension
The Court expressed its reservation as regards the prayer sought and said that no matter how much we wish for bringing the Indian citizens back, it is not possible at the time. The Indian citizens are spread across the USA and it would be difficult to bring them all back amid prevalent conditions.
The Court pointed out that India's Top Court cannot give any directions to a foreign government. However, the Indian government can make a request to the government of the USA to ensure that the visa issues for Indian citizens is looked into.
The status report filed by the Centre in this regard outlined the various measures that the government's arm in the USA are taking to extend all possible help to the Indian citizens. This is done in collaboration with certain voluntary organizations, the status report details.
Makhija told the Court that the issue raised by her is with respect to certain vulnerable citizens who are in dire conditions in a foreign country. The Court, however, said that no orders to this effect can be passed at the time expressing an assurance that all the countries are doing their best at this time.
While the Court has refused to pass any directions in the matter, liberty has been given to the petitioners to make a representation before the nodal officers in charge along with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) within a period of two weeks. This would enable the government to identify the individuals who are in need of help.
The petition had sought a direction to the Centre to operationalise special airplane carriers to reptariate distressed and vulnerable Indian citizens in the USA. India had imposed a blanket ban on all inbound commercial carriers since March 22, as a measure to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The plea sought enforcement of Article 21 rights of the Indian citizens in the USA. While applauding the government's actions taken to contain the spread of the contagion, the petition stated that a blanket ban on all inbound carriers has aggravated the distress of those Indian citizens stranded in the United States.
The petitioner had also sought to clarify that while no direction on the government's policy decision to close the airspace was sought, the prayer was limited to evacuate the Indian citizens "on a case to case basis who have approached the various consulates through the helpline or otherwise."