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The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre on a PIL seeking immediate evacuation of around 850 Indian citizens from Kargil, stranded in Qom in Iran, which has been the third-worst outbreak of COVID-19.

The bench comprising of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant while hearing the PIL through video-conferencing using ‘Vidyo’ app, issued notice to the Centre and sought its response by Monday. The PIL filed by Mustafa MH, a resident of Kargil in Ladakh, through his Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde mentioned that Indian Shia pilgrims stranded in Iran were faced with a grim scenario, in view of a deadly outbreak of the pandemic Coronavirus.

The petition stated that “as many as 250 people who have visited Iran as pilgrims were ‘mostly from a poor financial background’ and were required to return home in the beginning of this month. However, the pandemic completely changed the course of their journey.” The petition further highlighted that most of the pilgrims were out of funds and were dependent upon the philanthropy of the locals.

The petition also sought for directions from the apex court to provide appropriate health/medical facilities and appropriate accommodation to such pilgrims till such time as the Respondents are in a position to evacuate them safely to India.

Further, appreciating the efforts of the Central Government in relation to evacuation measures of the pilgrims in China, Italy, and Iran, the petition contended that these stranded citizens have however not been unable to receive appropriate health care or evacuation measures.

“In case urgent help is not provided to these pilgrims, there are bound to be serious health hazards, which have started to become fatal and has resulted in the death of two pilgrims already,” the petitioner submitted.

Considering the above facts and submissions made the Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner, the court asserted that “The contents of the petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, do indicate that there is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance to be provided to the pilgrims who are stranded in Qom. In order to facilitate their welfare, we are of the view that notice is required to be issued to the Union of India.”

The court also requested the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the court on the status report of steps been taken and proposed to be taken by the Union of India to alleviate the hardship, which is being faced by these stranded Indian citizens in Iran.

“We hope and trust that in the meantime all necessary steps that are required to protect the welfare of these citizens will be adopted and there is a suitable plan of action will be chalked out in consultation with all concerned including the Indian Embassy in Iran,” stated the bench while directing the Judicial registrar to forward the copy of present petition along with this order in electronic mode to the Solicitor General.

The next hearing of the matter has been scheduled for 30 March.

According to the sources, in Iran, so far the pandemic has infected around 32,332 and killed around 2,378.


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