On Wednesday, an Australian court agreed to consider a case challenging the country’s contentious ban on people returning from coronavirus-affected India.
A federal court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by a 73-year-old Bangalore resident who wants to return. Prime Minister Scott Morrison imposed a travel ban on Indian citizens this week, citing the country’s daily coronavirus infection rate of hundreds of thousands. Australian people who return home face prison time and hefty fines under the new laws.
The decision has sparked widespread controversy, with even Morrison’s supporters denouncing it as racist and a betrayal of marginalised Australians living abroad. The ban, according to the conservative government, is appropriate to keep Australia’s quarantine facilities from being overburdened with Covid-positive arrivals.
The 73-year-old man’s counsel, Christopher Ward, said his client was challenging the ban on many grounds, including constitutionality, “proportionality,” and “reasonability.” A new hearing date will be set in the next 24 to 48 hours, according to Justice Stephen Burley.
While there is no widespread population transmission of Covid-19 in Australia, several outbreaks have occurred in hotel quarantine facilities, resulting in city lockdowns.Morrison declined to change the ban on Tuesday, but said the penalty would be “very unlikely” to be imposed.
The prohibition is reportedly set to last until May 15. The challenge, according to Monash University constitutional law professor Luke Beck, would be difficult to win, and even a temporary injunction is impossible.
“There aren’t many protections that individuals have under the Australian constitution,” he told AFP, adding that there is no clear right to return home. The appeal may be aimed at persuading the court that the interventions are excessive in light of the danger, but “judges appear to side with the government’s public health expert,” he said.