New Delhi, May 18 (PTI) The Centre on Monday undertook in the Delhi High Court that it will follow its standard operating procedure (SOP), including giving priority to pregnant women, while repatriating Indian nationals stranded in Saudi Arabia since the COVID-19 outbreak.
The undertaking was given before Justice Vibhu Bakhru by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya and central government standing counsel Jasmeet Singh who appeared for the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The high court noted the undertaking and bound the government to the statement made by it.
The order came while disposing of a PIL by the United Nurses Association seeking directions to the Centre to bring back 56 pregnant nurses stranded in Saudi Arabia due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown. With regard to the association's plea for bringing back the pregnant nurses by via special chartered flights, the high court said it was not giving any such direction 'as steps have been taken towards the said end'. The high court said, 'It is expected that the Government would take all necessary steps, within the limitation of the resources available, to operate flights to bring back Indian citizens who are stranded overseas.' It also observed that 'it is necessary to ensure within the category of persons who are to be accorded priority, a higher priority be accorded to persons who are in medical distress vis-à-vis persons who are otherwise hale and hearty but are stranded due to the expiry of their visa or other reasons'. The United Nurses Association, represented by advocate Subhash Chandran, had also sought a direction to the MHA to 'strictly follow' its SOP which states that priority has to be given to people with medical emergencies, including pregnant women.
The association claimed that many of the pregnant nurses are in their third trimester and therefore, require 'medical and psycho-socio support'.
The petition had also claimed that these women are staying alone in Saudi Arabia as family status visa was not provided to staff nurses like them.
The association had sought a direction to the Centre to bring back the stranded pregnant nurses in the second phase of 'Vande Bharat Mission' between May 19 and May 23. PTI HMP SKV RKS RKS RKS