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250 Indians stranded in Iran tested positive for COVID-19, Centre tells SC

]NEW DELHI: The Centre Wednesday told the Supreme Court that 250 Indian pilgrims stranded in Qom, Iran, have tested positive for coronavirus and have not been evacuated, while over 500 have already been brought back.

The top court observed that it is thinking of asking the Indian embassy to constantly monitor the situation and be in touch with the stranded Indians in Iran.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said it will pass the orders in favour of the petitioners and would ask the Indian embassy to take fresh tests and look into the possibility of bringing them back as and when possible.

It observed that government is taking the matter seriously.

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre said that many of the Indians stranded in Iran have been brought back.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner, said that not all of those stranded have been brought back and around 250 people, who have tested positive are still there and are at the mercy of Iranian authorities.

He said the court ask the Solicitor General to take instruction about bringing back 250 people, who have tested positive, still stranded in Iran.

Mehta countered the arguments and said that at present all International flights have been cancelled and authorities are waiting for a decision of Ministry of External Affairs.

“Our embassy at Iran is in touch with the 250 people stranded there. They will be brought back, whenever there is possibility,” he said, adding, that the petition has become infructuous.

To this, the bench told Hegde that those people, who are stranded in Iran are being taken care of and the matter should be left on government now.

“You (petitioner) can raise this issue again when need arises,” the bench said.

Hegde contended that many of Indian citizens who are still in Iran do not have symptoms and if they are asked to stay in hotels, where others with symptoms are being quarantined, they may develop it there.

He said that 250 people in Iran don’t have money, medicines and other amenities and why can’t they be brought to a place like Leh? Mehta replied that many people who were earlier brought back and sent to Leh and other places have now developed symptoms.

The bench said that it will issue an order in favour of their repatriation as and when the health situation of stranded Indians improves.

Iran is one of the countries worst affected by the global pandemic, also called Covid-19, and has reported over 2,000 deaths so far due to coronavirus.

Petitioner Mustafa MH, a resident of Union Territory of Ladakh, has said in his plea that some of his relatives had travelled to Iran along with a group of about 1,000 pilgrims in December last year.

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