A 73-year-old Australian stuck in India has asked the Federal Court to overturn Health Minister Greg Hunt's ban on citizens returning from the COVID-ravaged country.
Lawyers for Bangalore-based Gary Newman made an urgent application on Wednesday for judicial review of the travel ban, in force since Friday.
During a brief hearing, the Federal Court agreed to expedite the case.
A hearing date no later than next Thursday will be announced once an available judge is found.
Michael Bradley, whose law firm is behind the case, said the minister's determination under the biosecurity act was invalid.
"It's not effective in law, and it sets an extraordinary and appalling precedent, and that needs to be challenged," the Marque Lawyers managing director told ABC on Wednesday.
Mr Newman's application is made on four grounds, with two centring on the application of the relevant laws.
Another ground questions the proportionality and reasonableness of Mr Hunt's determination, while a fourth argues there is an implied freedom for citizens to return home.
"I think most Australians would have always thought that one of the basic attributes of citizenship is that you can come home," Mr Bradley said.
"That is, at the moment, criminalised."
The hearing will initially focus on the first two grounds.
"We appreciate the urgency of this matter," the barrister representing the health minister told the court.
Mr Hunt on Friday announced anyone who attempted to defy the rules would be hit with fines of up to $66,600 or five years in prison, or both.
He did so after advice from Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, who said it was necessary to prevent and control the entry into, or the emergence, establishment or spread of COVID-19 in Australia.
More than 9000 Australians in India are registered as wanting to return, including 650 people registered as vulnerable.
The decision was based on the number of positive cases from India detected in the country's quarantine facilities, Mr Hunt said.
India's official count of cases surpassed 20 million on Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while the death toll has passed 226,000.
Australian Associated Press