An Australian court on Wednesday agreed to hear a challenge to the country’s controversial ban requiring citizens to return home after an India hit by the coronavirus.
A federal court has said it will urgently hear a challenge brought by a 73-year-old man living in Bangalore who wants to return to Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week banned arrivals from India, which records hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus infections every day.
Under these measures, Australian citizens returning home face jail time and heavy fines.
The move sparked widespread outrage with Morrison’s own allies describing her as racist and abandonment from vulnerable Australians abroad.
The Conservative government argued that the ban was necessary to prevent Australian quarantine facilities from being overwhelmed by positive arrivals for Covid from India.
Christopher Ward, the lawyer representing the 73-year-old, said: “He is a gentleman who wishes to return to Australia, and his return is currently prevented.”
Ward said the case challenged the ban on several grounds of constitutionality, “proportionality and reasonableness.”
Judge Stephen Burley has ordered that another hearing date be set in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Australia does not have widespread community transmission of Covid-19, but has seen several epidemics emerge from hotel quarantine facilities, causing disruptive city lockdowns.
It is estimated that there are around 9,000 Australian citizens in India, including top cricketers playing the now suspended Indian Premier League.
Morrison refused on Tuesday to change the ban, but insisted it was “highly unlikely” that the punishment would ever be met.
The ban is currently scheduled to last until May 15.
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