A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the action of Karnataka Government in shutting down its road borders with Kerala in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
The petition has been filed by Rajmohan Unnithan, Congress MP elected from Kasargod constituency, which shares border with Karnataka. The petition drawn by Advocate Haris Beeran and filed through Advocate Pallavi Pratap states that the closing down of the borders has affected the supply of essential goods to Kerala. The petition also says that residents of Kasargod have been dependent on medical facilities in Mangaluru district for years.
Urgent mention of the matter has been made for hearing through video conferencing.
It is pointed out in the petition that the blockade is against the directions of Central Government, which has instructed all State Governments to permit inter-state supply of goods and services without hindrance.
The authorities in Karnataka have erected mud embankments on the arterial inter-state roads. Two patients have died after Karnataka police refused entry to ambulances ferrying them from places in border district of Kasargod in Kerala to Mangaluru, a preferred destination for treatment for border residents owing to proximity.
The Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the issue, after talks between the Chief Secretaries of both the states failed.
The Yeddyurappa government stood firm on its decision citing the risk of COVID-19 infections from Kasargod district, which has the highest number of reported cases in Kerala.
The plea states that the road blockade is unconstitutional and resulted in violation of the fundamental rights of the people of Kerala.
"the act of the State of Karnataka, in the garb of the nation-wide lockdown, of blocking the National Highway 66 and the other roads connecting Kerala and thereby hindering the supply of essential goods to Kerala and denying the right of the people of Kerala, especially the people of Kasaragod district, to access critical medical care in the hospitals in Karnataka is a grave violation of the constitutional rights of the people of Kerala to enjoy the right to live with human dignity, right to food and right to health and medical assistance", the plea reads.
It is also stated that the State Government has no authority to block a national highway, which is under the control of National Highway Authority of India.
"The Kanyakumari-Kochi-Panvel National Highway (NH-66) is the property of the National Highway Authority of India under the National Highways Act and no State Government has any authority to block the above Highways without the prior sanction of the National Highway Authority of India. The National Highway Authority of India has not given any sanction to block any of its Highways. There is no rational reason in the above acts of the State of Karnataka".
The action amounts to infringement of right to life under Article 21, and also right to movement under Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution, states Unnithan in the plea.
The petition seeks a direction to the Karnataka Government to open the the borders with Kerala and in particular Kasargod-Mangalore border at Talappadi, and also to to allow the movement of Ambulances and other emergency vehicles and trucks with essential goods through the borders.
The plea also seeks a direction to the State of Karnataka to register an FIR and constitute a Special Investigation Team under the supervision of SC to enquire against the concerned authorities including the police officials whose action led to the death of two citizens.
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