The blocking of national highways by Karnataka which prevents people from accessing medical facilities infringes articles 19 and 21: Kerala conveys to SC

Team SoOLEGAL 7 Apr 2020 4:46pm

The blocking of national highways by Karnataka which prevents people from accessing medical facilities infringes articles 19 and 21: Kerala conveys to SC

The State of Kerala filed a Counter Affidavit in the case in which the State of Karnataka had moved the Supreme Court of India, challenging the order of the High Court of Kerala to compel the Central Government to allow patients to seek emergency medical care across the border between Kerala and Karnataka.

The Counter Affidavit notes that, apart from the non-maintainability of the Special Leave Petition, the blockade imposed by the State of Karnataka prohibits the movement of not only those individuals who are in desperate need of medical treatment / requirements, but also hinders the movement of essential commodities through these routes.

The Counter Affidavit sets out the specifics of road blockades, some of which are also blocked by dumping piles of soil and thus prevents the vehicle from entering. Even ambulances are not allowed to move to Mangalore for medical emergencies. It is further reported that there are instances of road blockades by the State of Karnataka, which also encroach upon  the geographical location of the State of Kerala.

The Counter Affidavit also refers to the Order of 23.03.2020 issued by the Government of Karnataka, which stipulated that the State borders with neighboring States will remain closed in the light of COVID-19, with the exception of medical emergencies. However, an addendum was released on 31.03.2020 under the Karnataka Epidemic Act, which limits the interstate movement of even patients.

It is mentioned in the Counter that, in addition to being unconstitutional in law, the addendum is vitiated by malafides as it was released after the case had been taken for consideration by the High Court of Kerala and the issues presented were based on the order of 23 March. Therefore, criteria of residency or occupation should not be a requirement for the provision of care in hospitals.

The Counter also mentions that "it was submitted before the High Court of Kerala on behalf of the State of Karnataka that two roads which were hitherto kept closed would be opened. However, no such road which was hitherto kept closed was opened."

The Guidelines provided by the NDMA on 24.03.2020 require the distribution and transport of essential goods in compliance with Clauses 4 and 15; Clause 15 explicitly states that the restrictions apply to the movement of individuals and not to the movement of essential goods. Pursuant to an addendum released subsequently on 25.03.2020, Clause K allowed cross-border movement of critical goods by property.

The claim of the State of Karnataka that they have the power to control movement within the territorial limits of the State was also opposed as detrimental to the federal structure of the country and contrary to the spirit of the Indian Constitution, in particular Article 1. As the National Highway has been blocked, it is reported that it is the responsibility of the Central Government to issue orders to the State of Karnataka to remove such a blockage to the degree that it prevents the transport of patients and critical goods.

It is further claimed that' the act of the State of Karnataka to block national highways and other roads to Kerala, to the degree that it prevents residents from obtaining medical treatment and prevents the movement of essential goods, violates the fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens of India residing in Kerala pursuant to Articles 19(1)(d) and 21 of the Constitution of India.

On 1 April 2020, in a PIL filed by the Kerala High Court Advocates Association, the Kerala High Court ordered the Union Government to lift the border blockade imposed by Karnataka to allow patients from Kerala to access emergency medical treatment in hospitals in Karnataka, as a blockade of the same amount was a violation of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Infringing the order of the High Court of Kerala, the State of Karnataka had moved the Supreme, arguing that the enforcement of the order would lead to legal and order issues as the local population opposed the entry of citizens from the Kasaragod district, which has a large number of cases of COVID-19.

Tagged: national highways   Karnataka   medical facilities   article 19   article 21   Kerala   Counter Affidavit   Central Government   COVID-19   Karnataka Epidemic Act   High Court  
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