SC asks Centre to explore giving further priority to pregnant women in evacuation from Saudi Arabia

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New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre to explore granting 'further priority' to some doctors and nurses, who are stranded in Saudi Arabia amid COVID-19 pandemic and are in advanced stage of pregnancy, for bringing them back to India.

The remark by a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed that as per the standard operating procedure (SOP), priority is already given to the pregnant women during evacuation from abroad.

The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and B R Gavai, was hearing through video-conferencing a plea seeking a direction to the Centre to make arrangements to bring back 18 medical professionals who are pregnant and are stranded in Saudi Arabia in 'vulnerable conditions'.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the petitioners, told the bench that pregnancy of these medical professionals is at an advance stage and they need a further priority in the priority already given to pregnant women.

'The government shall explore the question of further priority as per the specific cases of the petitioners and shall take appropriate steps accordingly,' the bench said in its order and disposed of the petition.

The bench also noted in its order that the Centre has already taken a decision to bring back Indians who are stranded overseas due to lockdown and travel restrictions amid COVID-19 pandemic.

The plea, filed through advocate Jose Abraham, had also sought a direction to the Indian Embassy at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to take appropriate measures and ensure that these pregnant medical professionals, including one doctor, have access to proper medical facilities till they are repatriated to India.

The petition has said repatriation of these medical professionals was needed as soon as possible as they would not be able to travel once they are in their 36th week of gestation.

The plea had said the petitioners had planned to return to India on various dates in the month of March and April for their delivery but their tickets got cancelled due to closure of airports in India for flights from abroad. PTI ABA MNL SJK RKS MNL RKS RKS