New Delhi, April 7: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government to respond to a petition to urgently evacuate hundreds of Indian students stranded in the United Kingdom due to the lockdown and disruption following the coronavirus pandemic.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde issued notice to the Ministries of External Affairs and Civil Aviation. They have to reply by April 13, the next day of hearing, The Hindu reported.

The petition, filed by Supreme Court advocate Madhurima Mridul, whose daughter is one among the many students stuck in the U.K., said India is “probably the only country that has imposed an embargo on the return of its own citizens, and where other countries are making all possible efforts to repatriate their citizens stranded in various countries, India with its travel bans has made it impossible for its own citizens to come back home.”

The petition, represented by advocates Sunil Fernandes, Astha Sharma and Nupur Kumar, said countries with far greater incidence of mortality like China, Spain, Italy, Iran, South Korea and the United States had not imposed any embargo on the return of their nationals from foreign shores.

The petition said there was a proposal to fly British nationals stranded here back to the U.K. between April 4-7. If so, the same Air India flights, chartered by the U.K. government, could have ferried Indian students back to their home country, Mr. Fernandes argued.

“It was unreasonable and arbitrary to not make optimum use of the national resources at this critical juncture,” the petition said.

Mr. Fernandes said the government should now come up with another evacuation plan immediately. Ms. Mridul, in her petition, said students crammed in hostels with shared kitchens and bathroom facilities were more prone to get infected.

The Centre had from March 22 imposed travel ban on international commercial air traffic till April 14.

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