CANBERRA, May 11: The Federal Court of Australia has rejected a legal challenge to the government’s India travel ban, as Justice Tom Thawley dismissed the first two arguments of the four-pronged bid to overturn the decision.
The ban has made it a criminal offense under the Biosecurity Act to try and enter Australia within 14 days of being in India, which is battling a devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lawyers for Gary Newman, a 73-year-old Melbourne man who has been stuck in India amid the pandemic since March 2020, told the court that the controversial ban contravened his common law right to return home.
But the court agreed with government lawyers that the Biosecurity Act prevailed over such rights if it was needed to protect the national interest.
The Biosecurity Act gives the Minister for Health Greg Hunt the power to introduce emergency powers that are “appropriate and adapted to achieve the purpose” for which they are intended.
It includes the power to “prevent or control” entry or exit of human disease from the country.
“The most obvious method of achieving either result is to prevent entry or departure from Australia,” Thawley said on Monday.
Hunt announced the travel ban on April 30 as the Covid-19 situation in India worsened.
It has been described as “immoral”, “racist” and “inhumane”, a criticism that has been rejected by the government.
A poll published by Guardian Australia on Tuesday revealed that voters are divided over the issue with 56 percent of 1,092 respondents saying Australians in India should be allowed to return home.
The travel ban will end on May 15.