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[Breaking] Karnataka Moves SC Against Kerala HC Direction To Remove Road Blockade For Essential Medical Services

2 April 2020 3:17 PM GMT
[Breaking] Karnataka Moves SC Against Kerala HC Direction To Remove Road Blockade For Essential Medical Services
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The State of Karnataka has moved the Supreme Court challenging the order of the High Court of Kerala which directed the Union Government to remove the border blockade imposed by Karnataka to allow entry for patients from Kerala to access emergency medical care in hospitals in Karnataka.

Kerala has filed CAVEAT in the matter. A bench comprising Justices Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta is considering tomorrow a writ petition filed by Kerala MP Rajmohan Unnithan against Karnataka's action.

In the Special Leave Petition, Karnataka stated that the implementation of the order would lead to law and order issues as the local population is opposing the entry of people from Kasargod district, which has high number of COVID-19 cases. It is stated that the sealing of road borders was done in the interest of public health emergency.

The petition stated that the High Court of Kerala overstepped its territorial jurisdiction under Article 226(2) of the Constitution of India by passing directions in a matter in which the cause of action completely arose within the State of Karnataka. 

"The Hon'ble High Court failed to consider that the hospitals in Mangaluru, Dakshin Kannada district, are already overburdened and the people residing in Mangaluru are in panic due to the increasing number of cases in the Districts of Kerala, specially in Kasargod district. It is humbly submitted that the resources of the State of Karnataka are hard pressed and it is very difficult to cater to the needs of new patients from the State of Kerala. It is also humbly submitted that it is very difficult on ground level to differentiate a COVID-19 patient and other medial cases", the plea said.

It is also pointed out that a similar writ petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, and therefore the HC ought to have refrained from entertaining the petition. The case is essentially a dispute between two State Governments, and hence the matter fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 131; therefore, the HC should not have passed orders in a Public Interest Litigation, argued Karnataka in the petition.

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.

"The right of a citizen to move freely throughout the territory of India, subject to reasonable restrictions that may be imposed in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, public order etc. is recognised under Art.19 (1)(d) of our Constitution. A citizen also has a fundamental right to life and personal liberty guaranteed to him by the State under Art.21 of our Constitution.

Both these rights are simultaneously infringed in the case of a resident of the State of Kerala when he/she is denied entry into the State of Karnataka for availing medical treatment, or is deprived of essential articles of food that are being transported into the State through blockades erected by the State of Karnataka", the HC had observed.

A division bench comprising Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly passed the interim order in a PIL filed by the Kerala High Court Advocates Association.

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. Seven 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.

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