Coronavirus lockdown | Settle border blockade amicably, SC tells Karnataka, Kerala

Karnataka’s blockade has choked free flow of vehicles carrying essential items and patients amid COVID-19 outbreak

April 03, 2020 06:38 pm | Updated April 04, 2020 09:32 am IST - New Delhi

The Talapady toll plaza on the Karnataka-Kerala border. | File

The Talapady toll plaza on the Karnataka-Kerala border. | File

The Supreme Court on Friday urged Karnataka and Kerala to amicably resolve their issues concerning a border blockade that has choked the free flow of vehicles carrying essential items and patients in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak .

Karnataka, which imposed the blockade, justified that its border was sealed to “combat the spread of the pandemic by preventing the movement of people from the bordering districts of Kerala to Karnataka”.

Also read | Woman dies after ambulance is denied permission to cross Kerala-Karnataka border

The State had moved the Supreme Court, challenging a Kerala High Court order on April 1 to open the border . Kerala has countered that patients from the State cannot be denied access to health care. Besides, the blockade has severely affected the supply of essential items, from medicines to food, to Kerala.

On Friday, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta urged the States to not confront each other in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis. Instead, it asked the Chief Secretaries of both States to sit with the Union Health Secretary and iron out a solution. Meanwhile, the apex court urged Kerala not to take any precipitative action based on the High Court order.

Also read | Kerala patients banned from entering Mangaluru, says Minister

The court issued notice to Kerala on the appeal filed by Karnataka, represented by advocate Shubhranshu Padhi. It listed the case for further hearing on April 7.

Karnataka, in its appeal against the High Court order, said the blockade was put in place in the interest of public health. The situation regarding Coronavirus was “really dire”, it said. It warned that opening the blockade would cause a law and order issue as its local population wanted the border to remain sealed.

Karnataka argued that Kerala was the “worst-affected” State in the country with nearly 194 coronavirus cases. In this, Kasaragod, adjoining Karnataka, was the “worst affected” district of Kerala with over a 100 positive cases.

MP’s plea

The court also separately considered a writ petition by Kasaragod MP Rajmohan Unnithan for an order to forthwith open the State border.

Also read | Pinarayi vexed with Karnataka’s ‘no’ to removing roadblocks

The parliamentarian, represented by advocates Haris Beeran and Pallavi Pratap, urged the court to issue an ex-parte stay on the operation of the blockade imposed by Karnataka with its border States.

Mr. Unnithan said Karnataka’s blockade was “ill-planned and dangerous” and had led to loss of lives. Two patients from Kerala, in need of urgent medical care, died after their ambulances were denied entry at the border by the Karnataka authorities. One of them was a 70-year-old woman .

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