Do more to protect Indians, apex court tells government

NEW DELHI - Noting that attacks on Indian students in Australia have not stopped despite the “best efforts of the government”, the Supreme Court Monday said the safety of the students was “paramount” and the centre should do more to ensure it.

We should not push the problem under the carpet, the Supreme Court said, adding the safety of students was very important.

There has been a string of attacks on Indian students in Australia since May 9. In the latest incident Sunday, two Indian students suffered a beer bottle attack in Sydney. The incident takes the number of such victims to 18.

The series of attacks on Indian students and their robberies had been highlighted prominently in the Indian media, which had led to statements of assurance on safety from the highest level of the Australian government. India has released guidelines for Indian students to ensure that they had a safe stay there.

The apex court asked the government for a detailed affidavit on the issue in two weeks.

Attorney General of India G.E. Vahanvati assured the court that the Australian government was taking adequate measures to deal with the assaults.

He said all attacks on Indian students in Australia cannot be termed as racial.

The safety and security of Indian students in Australia is paramount, a vacation bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and A.K. Ganguli said while acting on a public interest petition.

We are sure that the government must be taking all steps but our anxiety is that despite the best of efforts on the part of the government, the incidents of attacks are going on, the bench observed.

Advocate D.K. Garg, who appeared for the petitioner, said though the government insists that adequate steps were being taken to protect the Indian students, a number of anxious parents were still making inquiries about the well-being of their children.

The bench asked the government to place all information on the website as anxious parents, relatives and friends of Indian students in Australia are entitled to know the exact situation about their kids.

During the earlier hearing, the government had informed the court that the Australian government was exploring the possibility of amending its existing laws to enhance punishment for racism-related offences.

The government had also informed the court that a task force has been constituted by Australian authorities to coordinate with various states in that country to address the issue of racial attacks.

According to the petition, an estimated 93,000 Indian students are at present studying in Australia.

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