COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Government of India has undertaken evacuation operations from several countries in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak to bring back Indian citizens as well as nationals from other countries.

As it became clear that Iran was facing a COVID-19 outbreak, Government of India started to undertake measures to ensure safety and security of its citizens in the country. Indian nationals in Iran include pilgrims, students and fishermen. On 7th March, 108 samples were received from Iran. These samples are being tested at the laboratory of AIIMS. Also, six scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have been stationed in Iran. Equipment and reagents have also been dispatched to enable them to setup a lab. The first batch of 58 evacuees from Iran has arrived on 10th March, 2020 with 25 men, 31 women and 2 children on board. All evacuees are asymptomatic at present.

So far, Government of India has evacuated 948 passengers from COVID-19 affected countries. Out of these, 900 are Indian citizens and 48 belonging to different nationalities including Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, USA, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru.

Earlier, as Wuhan city in Hubei province of China became the epicenter of the COVID-19 and there were hundreds of Indians stuck in the city, Air India operated two special flights for the evacuation efforts which brought back 654 passengers that included 647 Indian citizens.

The first batch consisting of 324 Indians were evacuated from Wuhan, China on 1st February. 104 of these were quarantined for monitoring at ITBP Chhawla camp and the rest 220 were housed in the army facility at Manesar. The second batch of 330 passengers (including 7 Maldivian citizens and two Indian Embassy officials who were on the ground to coordinate the evacuation efforts) arrived in India on 3rd February. 300 of these (including 7 Maldivians) were housed at ITBP Chhawla Camp and 30 were shifted to Manesar facility for monitoring.

All of these evacuees were placed in the isolation facilities for 14 days. They were tested twice and were found negative for COVID-19. They were discharged on 18th February, 2020.

On 26th February, Indian Air Force evacuated 112 passengers from Hubei province in China. Among these 76 were Indian citizens. The other nationals evacuated by Indian Air Force  included citizens of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Maldives, China, USA, Madagascar and South Africa. The passengers reached India on 27th February, 2020 and subsequently are housed at ITBP camp for a period of 14 days, as per protocol. They have tested negative for COVID-19 in the first test. The IAF flight had also carried medical supplies which were given as good-will gesture to China.

In addition, for the case involving the Japanese Cruise Ship, Diamond Princess, on 27th February, Air India flight carried an evacuation operation bringing back 124 passengers including 5 foreign nationals from Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa and Peru, from Port of Yokohama in Japan. The evacuees are housed at army facility in Manesar. They have tested negative in the first test.

As a measure of prevention, it is reiterated that as per the Travel Advisory issued by Government of India on 10th March, 2020, passengers with travel history to China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany should undergo self-imposed quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival, and their employers should facilitate work-from-home for such employees during this period.

[Source: PIB]

[Press Release dt. 11-03-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Division Bench of Gita Mittal, CJ and Rajesh Bindal, J., while addressing a representation with regard to the evacuation of the Indian Students from Iran due to the spread of Coronavirus, held that,

Necessary and appropriate measures required for evacuation of the Indian Students from Irna to India to be initiated.

A representation was made by Dr Zahoor Hussain Mir as a guardian of a student who is pursuing her higher studies in Iran. In the said representation, it was stated that,

“…due to sudden outbreak of COVID 19 in Iran as second epicenter in the world as all air traffic has been suspended from Iran towards other nations including India. It’s once again brought to your kind notice that there are many pilgrims. labours, and students stranded in Iran. They are facing the shortage of masks, medicines and other essential commodities due to mass closure/ shutdown by government authorities. It’s is requested that arrangements may be made to evacuate the stranded persons/students”

Another email was sent by Dr Zahoor regarding the criticality of Indian students stranded in Iran, wherein he stated that,

“…My request is to save the children studying in Iran as time is running out, they are losing hope as days are passing without any intervention by the Ministry of External Affairs to evacuate the stranded students at the earliest as was done in case of students stranded in Wuhan, China.”

High Court while concluding its decision on perusal of the above, stated that students are seeking immediate evacuation in view of the prevalent conditions in a foreign country.

Emergency conditions stand created by the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) and identification of Iran as the second epicenter in the world, steps for the evacuation of the Indian Nationals including the children from the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are required to be undertaken by the respondents 1 and 3.

Bench adding to the above also stated that, upon evacuation to India, these students who may have been exposed to the infection would return to their homes in UT of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Further, it is imperative that steps are immediately taken to ensure the creation of isolation/quarantine facilities in UT of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Court also stated that the above-stated steps cannot wait for the arrival of infection and must be immediately initiated and completed.

Thus, the Court directs that,

  • Respondents 1 to 3 are required through the Indian Embassy in Tehran, Iran and their offices, to ensure availability of the required materials to all Indian especially students, who are stated to be stranded there.
  • to identify the protocol to be followed, examine the mode to forthwith implement the same and take steps for evacuation of the Indian students stranded in Iran.
  • identify and ensure the creation of proper facilities for isolation and quarantine in the Government and private sector, testing laboratories as well
  • immediate steps for acquisition of and to ensure availability in sufficient numbers and quantity of N-95 (or any other recommended) masks
  • immediate steps for spreading information regarding the nature of the COVID 19 infection.
  • Advocate Monika Kohli appointed as amicus curiae.

The matter is further listed on 12-03-2020. [Court on its own motion v. Nemo, WP (C) No. 5 of 2020, decided on 03-03-2020]

International CourtsNews

International Court of Justice (ICJ): The ICJ will hold public hearings devoted to Preliminary Objections raised by the United States in the case concerning Certain Iranian Assets [Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) v. United States of America (USA)], from 8 to 12 October 2018, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court.

Iran instituted proceedings on 14 June 2016 against the USA before ICJ with regard to a dispute concerning violations by the USA of the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights between them. It was signed in Tehran on 15 August 1955 and entered into force on 16 June 1957” (hereinafter “the 1955 Treaty”). The 1955 Treaty was signed with the then regime of the Shah long before he was ousted in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But the US severed bilateral diplomatic ties with Iran in 1979 after 52 Americans were taken hostage in the US embassy in Tehran. They have not yet been fully restored.

The case was filed just weeks after the US Supreme Court ruled in April 2016 that $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets should be paid to about 1,000 survivors and relatives of those killed in attacks blamed on Iran. These attacks included the 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. According to Iran, US courts have awarded total damages of over $56 billion against it in respect of its alleged involvement in various terrorist acts mainly outside the US.

[Source: The New Indian Express]

NewsTreaties/Conventions/International Agreements

The Union Cabinet has approved an Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income between India and Iran. The Agreement will stimulate flow of investment, technology and personnel from India to Iran & vice versa, and will prevent double taxation. The Agreement will provide for exchange of information between the two Contracting Parties as per latest international standards. It will thus improve transparency in tax matters and will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.

The Agreement is on similar lines as entered into by India with other countries.  The proposed Agreement also meets treaty related minimum standards under G-20 OECD Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project, in which India participated on an equal footing. Insofar as India is concerned, the Central Government is authorized under Section 90 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 to enter into an Agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for avoidance of double taxation of income for exchange  of information  for the  prevention  of evasion  or avoidance of income-tax chargeable under the Income Tax Act, 1961.