The Supreme Court on Friday asked 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.
A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta issued notice on the 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. The bench also issued notice on the writ petition filed by Kasargod MP Rajmohan Unnithan challenging Karnataka's action.
The matter will be next considered on April 7. Notably, the bench has not stayed the order of Kerala HC.
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 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.
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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