Bengaluru: The Karnataka government on Thursday said it will approach the Supreme Court against the Kerala HC order which asked the central government to unseal the Karnataka-Kerala border for movement of patients with medical emergencies and essential goods.
After a review meeting, home minister Basavaraj Bommai told News18, "We are appealing. Karnataka is going for a special leave petition in the Supreme Court. We have got the option to go to the SC and we are going to the SC."
Even since lockdown was announced on March 25 to arrest the spread of coronavirus, most states sealed off their inter-state borders to restrict movement of people. While essential services and goods vehicles were allowed to cross borders, as per the guidelines, some villages along the Karnataka side of the border with Kerala created a blockade, completely restricting movement of even essential services.
Over the past week, many roads connecting Kerala to Karnataka, particularly the roads from Dakshina Kannada and Kodagu districts of Karnataka linking Kasaragod in Kerala, have been blocked. A few overzealous locals have even built seven-foot mud-walls to ensure no one travels from Kerala to Karnataka over fears that they could be carriers of the Covid-19 disease. In some cases, locals parked large JCBs to ensure no vehicular movement from Kerala.
Fuelling these fears, Mysore-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha accused Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan of sending back labourers across the border in vegetable trucks, when high number of coronavirus cases were registered in adjacent areas. Simha had tweeted that Karnataka authorities would not be pressurised under any circumstances.
CM @vijayanpinarayi Sir, ur home dist Kannur, which is adjacent2 Coorg, has too many Corona cases n u r sending back labourers using vegetable carrying trucks. So we hv blocked the road today. Don’t try to put pressure on Kar Chief Secretary to open the border. We will not allow. pic.twitter.com/xDmxs37Qx1— Pratap Simha (@mepratap) March 27, 2020
He even thanked chief minister BS Yediyurappa for sticking to his ground and asked for other borders to also be sealed.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan addressed two letters to the Prime Minister to intervene. However, no action was taken by the Centre. Many patients who avail medical facilities in the coastal Karnataka town of Mangalore could not be brought in ambulances. Essential supplies like vegetables to many hilly regions of Kerala were also cut off.
On Wednesday, a Kerala HC bench, hearing a petition by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association, directed the Centre to remove the blockade and allow essentials services and supplies to be resumed. Denial of health services amounts to infringement of right to life under Article 21 and also affects the right to freedom of movement under Article 19(1) (d) of the Constitution, it said.
The Kerala HC asked the Union government to intervene as the arterial roads that connect Mangalore to Kasaragod are part of the national highway network. Hence, it is the duty of the central government to ensure that roads are blockade-free.
Kerala MP Rajmohan Unnithan, meanwhile, approached the Supreme Court and argued that the blockade was a vindictive action by the Karnataka government and a human rights violation.
"Two people died because ambulance was not allowed. The condition of people is very bad. Cancer patients, dialysis patients are not able to go to hospital. Vegetable supply from states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat all come through these routes. If they lock the border, it will be huge trouble for us,” Unnithan told CNN-News18.
The district of Dakshin Kannada had called for a 72-hour complete lockdown, stating that the neighbouring district of Kasaragod was a Covid-19 hotspot. Even Karnataka's leader of opposition and former CM Siddaramaiah urged the state to allow passage on humanitarian grounds, stating that the fight against coronavirus was beyond caste, religion and boundary.
Critical & essential travel from Kasaragod to Mangaluru should be allowed on humanitarian grounds.Patients from Kerala seeking medical assistance in Karnataka can be allowed with adequate precautionary measures.Our fight against Corona is beyond caste, religion & boundary.— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) April 1, 2020
Former PM Deve Gowda, too, batted for Kerala, telling Pinarayi Vijayan in a letter that he would take up this cause with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the latter had assured that hospital facilities and essential commodities will be available to all round-the-clock during the 21-day lockdown.
"Hope with our efforts, better wisdom prevails upon the BJP government and we are would be able to restore the access between the two states through the Mangaluru-Kasaragod highway at the earliest," he wrote to Vijayan.