Court allows Djokovic to play Australian Open, but Oz threatens to revoke visa
The Australian Court overturned the Federal Government’s decision to cancel Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic’s visa and permitted him to play in the Australian Open that starts on January 17.
With the decks cleared for him to play at Melbourne, the World No. 1 player would be back on court to win a record 21st Grand Slam title.
Judge Anthony Kelly ordered the immediate release of the 34-year-old Serb, who was put in detention on January 5 for not submitting proof of double vaccination against COVID-19. While Australia’s Victoria state had earlier given him waiver, the Australian Federal government cancelled his visa shortly after he reached Melbourne on January 5, arguing that he did not fulfil the criteria required for receiving an exemption to the rule that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
On January 10, Djokovic’s lawyers said in the court that their client did not need proof of vaccination because there is written evidence to show that he had been infected with the coronavirus last month. As per Australian rules, a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with COVID-19 within six months.
It was proved in the court that Djokovic had provided the Melbourne airport authorities with medical exemption document given to him by Tennis Australia.
However, lawyers for the federal government told the court the country’s immigration minister Alex Hawke was reserving the right to exercise his personal power to again revoke Djokovic’s visa.
So, Djokovic may have won the case now, but the government still reserves the right to detain him and remove him from the country. The government stated that non-citizens had no right of guaranteed entry to Australia.
Minister Hawke is likely to cancel Djokovic’s visa on entirely new grounds, government counsel Christopher Tran said. “I’m instructed (the minister) will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation,” Tran said.
If the minister indeed cancels the tennis player’s visa that would mean a ban from Australia for three years.
Judge Kelly said that if the government does consider revoking Djokovic’s visa then the player should be given ample notice to prepare for future court proceedings.
The Serbian tennis star was detained at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on January 5 and taken to a quarantine hotel after being denied entry into the country for not disclosing his COVID vaccination status. His visa was revoked for failing to meet the country’s tough pandemic entry norms.