As the number of deaths from COVID-19 reaches 17,838 in the US, a PIL has been filed in the SC seeking directions to the Government to organize special flights and formulate specific evacuation measures to airlift distressed Indian citizens from US. Filed by Senior Advocate Vibha Datta Makhija and Advocate Kashish Aneja, the petition contends that the blanket travel ban and the air-space lockdown imposed on all international flights has aggravated the distress of Indians in the US.
It has been asserted that all Indian citizens are qualified for the security of the Government, not only one segment of the citizens by virtue of being in a specific locale of the world. Thus, the petition urges the government to discharge it’s moral and legal obligations on humanitarian grounds.
The petition seeks the evacuation of Indian citizens who have approached consulates or helplines with their grievances, on a case to case basis. The plea asks the Court “to compel the government to perform its constitutional, and domestic and international legal duties in not acting arbitrarily and discriminatorily against one section of its citizens, who are as much entitled to the protection of the government, like the other citizens of the country.” The petitioners further suggested the following measures: –
- Assessing high-risk zones to determine vulnerability, and giving Indians in those areas priority.
- According to visa status, individuals whose visa’s are going to expire can be evacuated quickly.
- Priority-based on the level of distress.
- Subject the evacuated to strict protocols prescribed by the Government.
The petition affirms that there is no violation of foreign law or any impediment in the International law if the government decides to evacuate its citizens. There is great uncertainty regarding the status of extending expired visas of Indian citizens who, upon expiry of their visas, would be declared “illegal immigrants” and be liable to legal action. Hence, it is argued, urgent steps must be considered to evacuate Indian citizens stranded in the US.