The Centre and the Tamil Nadu government made contrasting submissions in the Madras High Court on Monday over the issue of operation of Vande Bharat Mission flights to bring back Indians stranded overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centre said people from Tamil Nadu returning from foreign countries were compelled to land in neighbouring states due to restrictions imposed by the government on flight operations and then travel to their respective destinations.
The state government said VBM flights were being allowed in all four international airports and besides through the sea route in two ports.
The submissions were made before a bench of Justice R Subbiah and Justice Krishnan Ramaswamy, hearing a plea by DMK alleging that the state was not permitting landing of international flights and seeking a direction to bring back those stranded.
The state government has requested that the number of flights to Chennai may be restricted to two per day and to Tiruchirappalli, Coimbatore and Madurai not more than one to facilitate smooth reception and observance of COVID-19 protocol, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a memo filed in the court.
However, a counter affidavit filed by the state Public Department Principal Secretary said "The return of Tamil Nadu people stranded in various countries continues in all four international airports in the state and through the sea ports of Tuticorin and Chennai.
As on June 15, a total of 61 flights from 17 different countries have brought 9,625 Indian nationals from abroad through the Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore and Tiruchirappalli.
This apart, as many as 1,369 people have been brought back to the state by two ships from Colombo and Maldives, it said.
Besides this, 33 more flights from various countries are scheduled to arrive in the state in the next two weeks alone, the state government said.
Senior counsel P Wilson for the petitioner pointed out to the Centre's submission that it was the state which had not been permitting such flights.
To this, state Additional Advocate General S R Rajagopal submitted he would get further instructions from the government, following which the court adjourned the matter to Tuesday.