The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass an order on a petition seeking directions on the evacuation of Indians stuck in war-hit Ukraine, the Hindustan Times reported. The judges, however, noted that the central government must “work out something” to allay the concerns of those stranded in Ukraine.
On Thursday, Chief Justice NV Ramana had asked the Centre’s counsel Attorney General KK Venugopal to look into the plea. The judges gave the directions on a petition filed by an Indian girl living in Ukraine’s Odesa city. The girl and other students are stranded without food and money after they were prevented from crossing over to Romania.
At Friday’s hearing, Venugopal claimed in the court that 17,000 people have already been evacuated from Ukraine.
He added that the group of 250 students, which includes the petitioner, have also crossed over to Ukraine’s neighbouring country Romania and they will be flown back to India by Friday night, Live Law reported.
To this, Ramana said that while the judges appreciated the steps taken by the government, they were also concerned about the “anxiety of the people”.
“You can keep an online helpline or something parents and families should know where they are,” Ramana told Venugopal, according to the Hindustan Times. “We won’t pass orders. Please work out something.”
In an oral observation, the Supreme Court also asked the High Courts to not pass any directions on pleas related to the evacuation process. Pointing out that such a plea had been filed in the Rajasthan High Court, Venugopal told the judges that “many such petitions will now be filed”, Live Law reported.
In response, Ramana told the attorney general: “You can inform your counsels appearing in state High Courts that once we are hearing and Centre is taking steps, there’s no meaning in every High Court entertaining and granting directions.”
Lapses in evacuation from Ukraine
There have been inconsistencies in India’s evacuation process – named “Operation Ganga” – under which it has been facilitating flights from neighbouring countries of Ukraine.
As recently as on Thursday, Union minister VK Singh said that an Indian citizen had been shot in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. This was two days after Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had claimed that all Indian citizens had left Kyiv.
On Tuesday, 21-year-old student Naveen Shekarappa Gyanagoudar was killed in shelling on eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv city.
Several students have complained that the Indian embassies in neighbouring countries of Ukraine had helped them only after they crossed the border of the war-hit country. Students have also shared their accounts of having to walk for several kilometres in sub-zero temperatures to be able to reach the help desks of the embassies.
Many of them have claimed that they were being tortured by Ukrainian authorities and prevented from crossing into neighbouring countries.
Even the girl who had filed the petition in the Supreme Court had not been able to cross the Ukraine border and was stuck “without food, water, or money”, her counsel had said.