Dubai: Amid the Indian government's stubborn refusal to repatriate thousands of their citizens who have been abandoned in the UAE, one pregnant Dubai expat has decided to take her case to the Supreme Court, so that she can fly home for her delivery.
Athira Geetha Sreedharan, 27, from Kerala, filed a writ petition seeking help to return to her home country following the suspension flights to India as part of precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Sreedharan, who lives in Dubai with her husband Nithin Chandran, said she wanted to return home for the much-needed support following the birth of her first baby, due in the first week of July.
However, owing to standard flight restrictions during pregnancy, she has submitted to the court that she can travel up till the first or second week of May.
In her plea, she said she has no one to help her except her husband who cannot seek leave as he works in a construction company, the sector which is not shut down during the national disinfection and sterilisation campaign here.
Due to the virus scare, it is even more imperative that she returns home so that she can be taken care of, said the plea which requested the apex court to direct the Indian government and its Ministry of Civil Aviation to make arrangements for her return.
Speaking to Gulf News on Wednesday, the engineer-couple said the case was filed with the help of the youth wing of UAE-based expat organisation Incas, among a host of Indian community groups campaigning for the repatriation of stranded Indians here.
Turn of events
Athira, who is on the 28th week of her first pregnancy, said the turn of events was unexpected and now she hopes her petition will also likely help other pregnant women who wish to fly home like her.
“We had initially planned to bring over our parents on visit in turns [for support during and post-delivery],” said her husband Nithin.
Athira, who works with an IT equipment company, said her company had allowed her to stop going to office early in March.
When they planned to her return home at that point of time, the couple said, everyone discouraged them as there were reports of many cases of passengers from here testing positive for coronavirus after reaching in Kerala.
“We thought the situation would improve. We never expected the lockdown to continue like this. Now, my husband has to go to work and we are concerned about my safety and that of our baby,” said Athira.
The couple, who are members of the Incas Youth Wing and Blood Donors Kerala-UAE, said they had stopped their volunteering works when coronavirus hit the UAE.
Nithin said his concerns are growing more after he heard of positive cases of COVID-19 among people known to him.
“I just want her to be repatriated safely to Kerala. I don’t have to accompany her. I am not in a position to resign my job and go. It is risky for her to travel after a few weeks. So, we hope the Supreme Court will give special consideration to her case.”
Will it help?
UAE-based lawyer Devanand Mahadeva, however, said the decision to fly her home to India may not lie with the Supreme Court of India but with the Government of India (GOI).
“The Supreme Court can only take the case to the Government of India (GOI). It is the decision of the GOI, particularly with the Ministry of Civil Aviation to take a decision on international flights to India.”
“There is a limitation with the Supreme Court when it comes to such matters. If you see the GOI has a union and state list. Matters related to aviation and airports – all fall under the Union government.”
“So in effect, if there is an Indian citizen living abroad and wants to return home for personal reasons – the Supreme Court cannot get involved in that.”
Last week, the apex court had said that Indians stranded abroad cannot be flown back home during the current lockdown and flight suspension in India.
All petitions before India’s apex court which sought directions or orders to ‘bring back Indians stranded in various countries abroad’ have been deferred for four weeks, News Agency ANI said.
However, Hyderali Thattathazhath, president of Incas Youth Wing, said the advocates arguing Athira’s case are hopeful that the court will consider her plea on humanitarian grounds.
“We have facilitated the submission of another plea for repatriation by Pradeep Karunakarn, who has been stranded after coming here on visit visa.”
Coordinator Bibin Jacob said they are hopeful that judgements in favour of the petitioners in the two cases will help pave the way for the repatriation of Indians who deserve high priority in flying home.