A non-resident Indian who missed his flight to Abu Dhabi after he tested positive for COVID-19, has also moved the Kerala High Court citing violation of his fundamental right to travel.
On January 25, two days before he was scheduled to fly to the UAE, Muzammil Varikkottil, 29, from Malappuram had taken an RT-PCR test and had tested negative. But when he arrived at the airport in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, he was “compelled” to undergo a Rapid-PCR test wherein he tested positive this time.
The court was told that Muzammil was made to leave the airport after testing positive, forcing him to miss his flight and may now lose his job as a driver in Abu Dhabi where he has been working for more than a decade. The one-way ticket price and pre-flight COVID tests had cost him about Rs 15,000 but the airline company refused to refund his ticket fare. The petition also stated that his family depended on his salary for a living.
The petition was filed through advocate Manas P. Hameed who said that the court had issued notices to the Union and state health departments, civil aviation ministry, ICMR, Airports Authority of India and the Calicut airport director.
The Kerala High Court has admitted Muzammil’s plea alleging that an unauthorised lab is conducting Rapid-PCR Covid tests at the Calicut International Airport. The plea also challenged the airport’s denial to accept the passenger’s recent RT-PCR test results. Justice N. Nagaresh on Wednesday directed the respondents to file a counter-affidavit in the matter within 4 weeks.
Muzammil has been on leave in India for the past four months and had accordingly undergone two RT-PCR tests within a week before boarding the flight. The second test was taken two days before the flight and the results of both tests came back as negative.
Despite this he was compelled to undergo a Rapid PCR test at the airport, at a cost of Rs. 2,490. To his absolute shock, the result this time came back positive and he was forced to leave the airport premises.
“According to ICMR, Rt-PCR is the gold standard frontline test for diagnosis of Covid-19. When the petitioner carries an Rt-PCR negative certificate issued from an approved lab, forcing the petitioner to undergo another Rapid-PCR test from the airport is unauthorised and pointless,” reads his petition.
It was also urged that the right to travel abroad is a part of the fundamental right to dignity and personal liberty. Muzammil also enquired in his petition about the private lab at the airport.
Following his enquiries, it was revealed that the private lab was not listed as approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) website, while the lab where Muzammil ran his earlier tests was listed. Moreover, when the petitioner cross-checked his results by logging into ICMR’s Covid Report Online Portal, the history of all his test results so far were shown, except the one at the airport.
This suggests that the lab may not have furnished his test results to the ICMR yet, which again violates the Guidelines and Advisories laid down by the ICMR. “When the petitioner carried a test report showing a negative result, that too issued in less than 48 hours, the respondents 5 and 6 should have allowed the petitioner to travel instead of forcing to conduct another test. Besides the same, the lab has got no approval from the authority to function at the airport,” the petition said. Muzammil is seeking intervention from the Centre to regulate the Covid-19 tests conducted at the airport on these grounds. His plea prays that the Court declare the respondents’ act of restraining him from travelling abroad while carrying an Rt-PCR negative certificate was violating his fundamental right to travel abroad.