Supreme Court tells Attorney-General to talk to Centre over evacuation of Indian students stranded in Ukraine

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The Supreme Court on Thursday asked Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal to use his good offices and urge the Centre to come to the aid of Indian students believed to be stuck without food, water and money at the Ukrainian border even as the crisis deepens.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana called for the Attorney General, the top law officer of the government, when a lawyer from Kashmir made an urgent mentioning on behalf of a girl student who, he said, was among a group of 30 stranded at the border.

“They have been prevented from crossing the border. The temperature there is –7 degrees. They are without food, water or money. Please intervene with the government to evacuate them,” the lawyer pleaded.

The lawyer said the petitioner was a medical student. She was part of a group of Indian students based in Odessa, Ukraine. They were trying to get through to neighbouring Moldova, he said, referring to the petition filed three days ago in the top court.

Mr. Venugopal said the Prime Minister had already talked to the Presidents of Russia and Ukraine about the evacuation of Indian nationals. The law officer said a Minister was already in Romania, helping with the evacuation. Indian nationals who crossed the border were being given aid and evacuated via relief planes.

The Attorney-General said it was “strange” that Ukraine was not allowing the students to cross the border.

“Please use your good offices and talk to the government,” the CJI addressed Mr. Venugopal, who agreed to do so.

The court asked the student’s lawyer to hand over a copy of his petition to the Attorney-General.

Earlier in the day, when the lawyer urged the court to intervene with the government on behalf of the students, the Bench was initially sceptical about how the court could help in a situation happening abroad, outside its jurisdiction.

“We have all sympathies. We feel for them [students]. There have been deaths, but can I give an order to the President of Russia to stop the war? The government is already doing something,” Chief Justice Ramana addressed the lawyer.

The Chief Justice had referred to social media posts criticising the court’s silence on the issue. “What is the CJI doing? Why is he not telling Putin?” the CJI had said exasperatedly.

The lawyer had pressed the court to direct the Ministry to act and save the students. “They are not evacuating them. Let them take care to do it,” the lawyer had urged.

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