Australia faces court challenge to its Indian travel ban
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government on Wednesday faced a court challenge to its temporary Indian travel ban brought by a 73-year-old citizen stranded in the city of Bengaluru.
The government is resisting growing pressure to lift the travel ban imposed last week until May 15 to reduce COVID-19 infection rates in Australian quarantine facilities.
Lawyers for Gary Newman, one of 9,000 Australians prevented from returning home from India, made an urgent application to the Federal Court in Sydney on Wednesday for a judge to review the travel ban imposed under the Biosecurity Act by Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Lawyer Christopher Ward told the court one of the grounds was related to questions of proportionality and reasonableness. Two grounds were based on statutory interpretation and a fourth questioned the ban’s constitutionality.
Justice Stephen Burley said an expedited hearing date would be announced within 48 hours.
Hunt announced late Friday that anyone who sets foot in Australia during the travel ban within 14 days of visiting India faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 66,000 Australian dollars ($51,000).
The Australian Medical Association this week called on Hunt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to withdraw the order, which the nation’s top doctors’ group condemned as “overreach.”
Some critics have accused the government of racism because such drastic travel restrictions were not introduced when infection rates were rapidly increasing in the United States and Europe.
Morrison said he was not concerned that the travel disruption might damage relations with India, which he described as “a great friend of Australia.”
“This pause is enabling us to get on the right footing to be able to restore those repatriation flights and we’re making...