A legal challenge to federal government moves threatening Australians returning home from COVID-ravaged India with fines or even jail time could be on the cards, a leading citizenship expert has said.
Kim Rubenstein, a professor of the Business, Government and Law Faculty at the University of Canberra, said such a challenge could be considered more of a possibility if the restrictions continued beyond their initial timeframe of two weeks.
"A challenge could be made in federal court as to the lawfulness of the determination," Professor Rubenstein said.
"The longer that this goes on, the more chance there is for a legal challenge on its inconsistencies with the frameworks of the [Biosecurity] Act.
From Monday, anyone who has been in India within two weeks of their intended travel date to Australia will be banned from entering the country.
Those found to have breached the ban could face fines of up to $66,000 or even five years in prison.
The restrictions are set to be reviewed by the government on May 15.
It comes as the Australian Human Rights Commission said it had deep concerns over the new restrictions barring citizens from returning from India.
"The travel ban on Australian citizens returning from India, accompanied by criminal sanctions under the Biosecurity Act, raises serious human rights concerns," a spokesman for the commission said.
"The need for such restrictions must be publicly justified. The government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health."
The most recent figures have shown India recorded almost 4 million new cases in a 24-hour period, with almost 3700 deaths registered.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne denied on Sunday that the measures were racist.
She said 57 per cent of positive Covid cases in hotel quarantine had been those who had returned from India, compared with 10 per cent the month before.
"It was placing a very, very significant burden on health and medical services in the states and territories," Senator Payne said.
"We will continue to work closely with the Australian-Indian community here and with officials overseas.
"The decision, which has been made under the Biosecurity Act on the basis of the advice of the chief medical officer, is a temporary pause on returns and is entirely founded in the advice of the chief medical officer."
The move by the federal government has angered many in the Indian community in Australia. Some have labelled the restrictions as "outrageous".
Professor Rubenstein said the government needed to show the travel ban from India was the least restrictive measure available.
"The government needs to share that information and it would be unfair not to," she said.
Senator Payne said using government-run facilities such as those on Christmas Island would not be used as a quarantine area for those returning from India to Australia.
"We've been very clear that Christmas Island is being used for other purposes and it is not suitable for the current cohort of returning Australians because of that," she said.
It's estimated there are 9000 Australians who are stranded in India.
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