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Court quashes Australia's decision to cancel Djokovic's visa

But the immigration minister can still re-cancel the visa on new grounds

djokovic-zverev-ap [File] Serbia's Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Australian Open in Melbourne | AP

The Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne has quashed the decision by the Australian government to cancel tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa, ordering the government to pay costs and release him from detention within 30 minutes of the hearing.

Djokovic had appealed to the court on Friday, seeking his Australian visa be reinstated after it was cancelled on his arrival in Melbourne for next week’s Australian Open. The Border Force had rejected that Djokovic’s medical exemption from taking the COVID-19 vaccine, which is mandatory for arrival in Australia.

The Serb’s lawyers said that he had tested positive on December 16, which was the basis for the medical exemption he received from Tennis Australia and the Victorian government on December 30.

Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly noted that Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne's airport with a medical exemption given him by Tennis Australia, which is organising the tournament that starts on Jan 17, and two medical panels.

“The point I'm somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Kelly asked Djokovic's lawyer, Nick Wood.

Wood agreed with the judge that Djokovic could not have done more.

Transcripts of Djokovic's interview with Border Force officials and his own affidavit revealed a “repeated appeal to the officers with which he was dealing that to his understanding, uncontradicted, he had done absolutely everything that he understood was required in order for him to enter Australia,” Wood said.

Djokovic has been under guard in hotel quarantine in Melbourne since Thursday, when his visa was cancelled. He was ordered to be released from the hotel midway through the hearing and attended the remainder of it in court.

Despite this decision by the court, Australia’s immigration minister can still exercise personal power of cancelling the visa on new grounds. If this happens, the matter could end up in court again as Djokovic would face being banned from Australia for three years.

“In a view, the stakes have risen rather than receded,” said Judge Anthony Kelly.

- With inputs from PTI

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