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Karnataka Border Blockade : SC Closes Cases After Agreement To Allow Passage For Non-COVID19 Patients From Kerala

7 April 2020 6:35 AM GMT
Karnataka Border Blockade : SC Closes Cases After Agreement To Allow Passage For Non-COVID19 Patients From Kerala
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday closed a bunch of petitions regarding the Karnataka's border blockade, after the Centre told the Court about the parameters evolved to allow passage for Kerala patients seeking emergency medical services in Mangaluru.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench comprising CJI SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao that the Union Home Secretary had convened a meeting with the Chief Secretaries of Kerala and Karnataka. Based on the meeting, Karnataka agreed to allow passage for patients from Kerala, who are not infected with COVID-19, to avail medical services from hospitals in Mangaluru.

"The dispute does not exist anymore", SG told the bench.

As per the parameters, the passage will be subject to medical examination by medical team at the Talapadi checkpost, Karnataka border. The entry to Karnataka will be for patients in critical cases such as accidents. Permission for entry to Karnataka will be only for government ambulances. There should be a medical certificate from a local doctor that the patients is not infected with COVID-19. Also, it should be further certified by the local doctor that no treatment for the patient is available in Kasargod or Kannur districts.

On Friday, the Supreme Court had directed the Union Health Secretary to call for a meeting between Chief Secretaries of Kerala and Karnataka to formulate parameters for passage of patients from Kasargod district to access emergency medical services from Mangaluru amid the border blockade imposed by Karnataka in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.

The order was passed while considering a Special Leave Petition filed by Karnataka against the Kerala High Court's order directing removal of border blockade to allow passage for patients from Kasargod district seeking medical services in Mangaluru.

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta had then posted the matter on April 7.

The case pertains to blocking of National Highway by Karnataka, which resulted in denial of access to health services in Managaluru for Keralites residing near Karnataka border. After the 21-day national lockdown was declared on March 24, the authorities in Karnataka erected mud embankments on the arterial inter-state roads to Kerala. Nine patients have reportedly 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 High Court had held that Karnataka's road blockade resulted in the denial of access to health services, which amounted to infringement of right to life under Article 21. It also affected right to freedom of movement under Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution, said the HC.

The HC had observed that the blockade would lead to catastrophic results in Kasargod, as people near border had been relying on hospitals in Karnataka owing to proximity. The HC said that it was "compelled" to pass the orders, as the delay would lead to loss of lives.

The Court passed the directions to the Union Government on the reasoning that the arterial roads that connect Mangalore in Karnataka to Kasaragod in Kerala are part of the National Highway network and it is therefore the duty of the Central Government to ensure that the said roads are kept free of blockades. Additionally, the Court observed that the guidelines issued by the Union Home Ministry under the Disaster Management Act had exempted emergency medical services from the ambit of lockdown.

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