Australia's COVID-19 travel ban on citizens returning from India challenged
Australia's controversial temporary ban on citizens returning home from India was challenged in Sydney federal court on Thursday by a 73-year-old Australian, who has been stranded in Bengaluru since March last year. The Australian government, for the first time in history, recently imposed a ban on its citizens from returning home, if they have been in India up to 14 days before flying back.
Newman, stranded in Bengaluru since March 2020, filed the application
The government threatened to prosecute them with a possibility of jail term or a penalty of 66,000 Australian dollars (USD 50,899). Federal Court Chief Justice James Allsop on Thursday set the hearing of the case on Monday and it will be heard by Justice Thomas Thawley. The application was filed by Melbourne's Gary Newman, who has been stranded in Bengaluru since March last year.
The application has challenged the ban on multiple bases
His application has sought to challenge an emergency declaration made by Health Minister Greg Hunt on April 30 under the Biosecurity Act on multiple grounds. Michael Bradley and Chris Ward, who are representing Newman, filed the application before Justice Stephen Burley on Wednesday afternoon. They are challenging the ban on multiple bases, including on constitutional grounds.
Hearing will focus on the interpretation of the Biosecurity Act
As per the argument, the declaration fails to offer implied freedom of citizens to enter Australia. The hearing would also focus on the interpretation of the Biosecurity Act which would include if the ban and the sections of the law that are said to enable the ban in fact abrogate a fundamental common law right of citizens to re-enter their country of citizenship.
Positive cases have decreased after halting flights from India: Morrison
A defiant Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday stood firm on his decision to halt flights from India, saying positive cases have started to come down as a result of the pause. The move triggered a backlash with several lawmakers, doctors, civil societies, and businessmen criticizing the government for "abandoning" Australians in India and threatening the travelers with a hefty penalty/jail.
The move has left over 9,000 returnees stranded in India
''We're already starting to see, as a result of the pause, the incidence of those cases at Howard Springs (quarantine facility) starting to come down. We've got a bit more distance to travel there," Morrison said. The move has left over 9,000 returnees stranded in India, and according to a peak business body, the Australia India Business Council (AIBC), it could damage business relations.
AIBC concerned about the temporary border closure
AIBC, in a statement, said that though it appreciates the gesture by the federal government providing relief material to India, it was concerned about the temporary border closure, imposition of fines, and jail terms for those wanting to return from India.