Sydney, Australia, May 5 (EFE).- An Australian man who has been stranded in India since March 2020 filed a lawsuit against Canberra on Wednesday, saying the new government measure criminalizing any attempt by its citizens to return from India is unconstitutional.
“We have approached the Federal Court of Australia challenging the India ban. Preliminary hearing will commence shortly,” Marque Lawyers, which represents 73-year-old Gary Newman, announced on Twitter.
“The court has expedited the case for urgent hearing,” it added.
Newman has been stuck in India since March last year, when the Australian government closed its international borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing only trips exempted from restrictions, and repatriations.
Newman’s plight worsened last week when the government suspended flights from India until May 15 and on Friday night announced penalties of up to five years imprisonment and fines of up to AU$66,000 ($51,115) for people returning to Australia after having been in the South Asian country in the 14 days prior to arrival.
Newman’s lawyers argue that the measure, which is based on the Biosecurity Act, is unconstitutional because it is outside the government’s powers and violates the implied freedom that its citizens have to return home, public broadcaster ABC reported.
The government has said that the ban on flights is “temporary,” while Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that it was “highly unlikely” that travelers from India, including Australians, who entered the country in violation of the travel ban would be jailed or fined.
Canberra justifies the suspension of flights due to an increase in Covid-19 cases in Australia, where people returning from India account for 85 percent of those infected in the mandatory quarantine centers.
Australia began to vaccinate its population against Covid-19 on Feb. 21, although the campaign has experienced delays in its rollout. The country has practically returned to normality apart from brief and localized lockdowns when new outbreaks are detected.
The country has recorded almost 30,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, including 910 deaths. EFE