The Supreme Court on Friday asked the government to immediately intervene to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of Indian pilgrims stranded in Qom city of Iran due to the outbreak of Covid-19. The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant, which heard the case via videoconferencing, issued a notice seeking the Centre’s response, and posted the matter for further hearing on March 30.

“There is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance to be provided to Indian citizens who are stranded in Qom,” the bench said while hearing the petition filed by Mustafa MH whose relatives are among the stranded pilgrims. In his plea, Mustafa claimed that many of the stranded Indian citizens did not have money even for basic sustenance.

The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the court and submit a status report of the steps proposed or taken to alleviate the “hardship which has been faced” by these Indians, reported The Hindu. “We hope and trust that in the meantime all necessary steps that are required to protect the welfare of these citizens will be adopted and a suitable plan of action will be chalked out in consultation with all the concerned authorities, including the Indian Embassy in Iran,” the order said.

Though the petitioner claimed that there were more than 800 Indian citizens stranded in Qom, the court order said about 500 pilgrims were stuck in the city. A batch of around 250 pilgrims was brought back to India from Qom.

Advocate Sanjay Hegde, who represented the petitioner, argued that several of the 500 pilgrims in Qom have tested positive for Covid-19. “In case urgent help is not provided to these pilgrims, there are bound to be serious health hazards, which have started to become fatal and has resulted in the death of two pilgrims already,” the petition said, according to Hindustan Times. Hedge said the government should be asked to provide adequate health and medical support to those stranded in Iran till they can be evacuated.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of External Affairs had confirmed that 255 Indians were infected with the novel coronavirus in Iran. The pilgrims had claimed Indian embassy officials in Iran have assured them that all those stranded will be airlifted back to India in the next few days. On March 25, the government had evacuated 253 pilgrims from Iran.