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March 27, 2020 10:11 pm

SC Seeks Centre’s Response On Iran Stranded Pilgrims

There were around 800 pilgrims from Kashmir and Ladakh stranded in Iran. Pix Credit Asgar Ali

New Delhi- The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Centre on a plea seeking directions for immediate evacuation of around 850 pilgrims stranded in Iran's Qom city in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant, which heard the matter through video-conferencing, issued notice to the Centre on the plea which has sought a direction to the government to provide adequate medical support to these Indian citizens who are stranded in Iran till their evacuation.

Iran is one of the countries worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and has reported over 2,000 deaths so far.

Petitioner Mustafa MH, a resident of the Union Territory of Ladakh, has said in his plea, which was argued by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, that some of his relatives had travelled to Iran along with a group of about 1,000 pilgrims in December last year.

He said his relatives were scheduled to return to India in the first week of March but they are stranded in Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"The petitioner is constrained to file the present writ petition seeking an order of evacuation of about 850 citizens of India who are currently stranded in the city of Qom, Iran," the plea said.

It said that several citizens of Ladakh had brought this issue to the notice of the Ministry of External Affairs after which the government took steps but these stranded pilgrims "have not been able to receive proper accommodation or health care".

Referring to the statement given by the external affairs minister, the plea said, "various steps were taken and total number of around 389 people were evacuated from Iran which includes students as well."

"A team of doctors was sent to Iran who conducted the test on 850 people. However, this process was conducted only once," it claimed.

It alleged that the Iranian government has accommodated stranded passengers in various hotels but most of these pilgrims are not in a position to pay for it since they do not have sufficient funds with them.

"Besides, they have been accommodated in hotel rooms in groups of four-five. It is extremely important to note that the situation of spread of coronavirus is extremely critical in Iran," the plea said, adding that accommodating them together is a serious health hazard and could lead to disastrous consequences.

It has also sought a direction to the Centre to ensure that the passengers are quarantined in the manner as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The apex court would hear the matter again on March 30.

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