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COVID-19 crisis: Madras HC notice in DMK's PIL against State's refusal to allow flight-bound return of Indians stranded abroad to Tamil Nadu

Meera Emmanuel

The Madras High Court has issued notice in a plea moved by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party challenging the Tamil Nadu Government's refusal to allow the landing of any flights to bring back Indians stranded abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic in any of the State's airports (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam v. UOI and ors).

Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate P Wilson told the Court that the Central Government's Vande Bharat Mission gives details of flight operations by Air India from only a limited number of countries.

Pertinently, it has been submitted that the State Govenment has not given due permission to allow the landing of any aircraft from abroad in its airports, causing problems for many stranded Indians, particularly those who wished to return to Tamil Nadu.

In the DMK's petition, concern was raised that the party has been received calls for aid from many Tamil persons stranded abroad and seeking to return back to India.

Whereas the Central Government had already given permission to recommence air travel, a grievance is raised that the Tamil Nadu Government has totally prohibited the same and not allowed the return of Tamil people stranded abroad. This, the petitioner argues, is totally unconstitutional.

It has been contended that when the Centre has allowed air travel of Indians stranded abroad, the State Government cannot block the same.

"When there are aircrafts permitted to land in various States of the Nation, there shall not be any discrimination imposed by the State Government, to prevent such travel to this State. In fact the (Central Government) has also notified SOPs and regulation for inter-state travel of persons. Therefore the (Tamil Nadu Government) is not justified in preventing the landing of airplanes carrying Indians stranded abroad" the petition states.

On Friday, the Bench of Justices Dr Vineet Kothari and R Suresh Kumar opined that the matter would require consideration by the Court, and issued notice returnable by a week.

Notably, the Court has also asked the Central and the State authorities to file status reports on certain aspects.

The Central Government has been directed to file a report on:

  • the number of Applicants, who have registered in various Embassies where they are stranded and want to return to India;

  • tthe number of Flights of various Airlines operated so far for return to India/ State of Tamil Nadu during the COVID-19 period;

  • the details of Plans of the Union of India to provide more such Flights in near future for such stranded people, either under Vande Bharat Mission or otherwise;

  • the details of the relief in the form of any financial help, ticket costs, food, stay, etc., to be provided to such stranded people in various foreign countries because of the Covid-19 Lockdown and stoppage of Flight operations.

The State Government has been asked to file a counter on the following aspects,

  • the permissions required to be given for such international Flight operations to land within the State of Tamil Nadu.

  • the number of such requisitions given by various Airline Companies or other Authorities in this regard

  • what is the stand of the State Government in issuing such permissions to the Airline Companies/Airport Authorities in this regard.

The matter will be taken up next on June 19.

Read the Order:

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam v. UOI and ors - June 12 order.pdf
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