New Delhi: Rajmohan Unnithan, member of Parliament from Kerala's northernmost Kasargod constituency, moved the Supreme Court on Monday seeking direction for the State of Karnataka to open its border with Kerala to allow movement of ambulances and emergency vehicles amid the nation-wide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The plea comes amidst reports of border check posts preventing entry of emergency vehicles and seriously ill patients being denied hospital treatment. Residents of Kasargod and neighbouring towns generally depand on Mangaluru, a city with ample speciality and super-speciality hospitals for seriously ill cases.
The border also acts as entry point for essential supplies from Karnataka to Kerala. The blockage imposed by the State of Karnataka at a time like this is violative of Articles 21 and 19(d), the petition by the MP argues.
The petition also cites the shortage of essential supplies in Kerala resulting from the blockade when Kerala is dependent on neighbouring states for food including grocery and vegetables and other essential goods, not only originating in Karnataka, but those coming from beyond via the state too.
The petition further states that a senior citizen lost her life as she was not allowed entry into Karnataka for receiving treatment which was available only in Mangalore. The petitioner says,
"This ill planned and dangerous blockade has claimed the life of a 70 year old woman who was denied entry into Karnataka even for the purpose of urgent medical treatment which was only available in the medical hub of Mangalore. This is a clear case of violation of the right to life with dignity by the state as citizens are made to die on the roads because of the action of the state which is in total disregard to Article 21."
All the access roads have all been sealed now in light of the nation-wide lockdown that came into force since 25 March. The same is causing difficulties to the people of Kerala, particularly in Kasargod, the petition states.
"The State of Karnataka has closed these roads by making mud mounds on the roads preventing even the pedestrian movement into the State of Karnataka from the State of Kerala. The above acts of the officials of the State of Karnataka are causing many difficulties for the people of Kerala especially of the people of Kasaragod."
The MP also throws light on the notification issued by the Centre on March 29, which said that transportation of all goods across the states will be allowed without any distinction of essential or non-essential goods. The continued blockade of the border by Karnataka despite such a notification is not only against the guidelines, but also against the public at large, Unnithan's petition states.
The move to seal the borders completely, which is also in violation of the Centre's notification, will have far reaching consequences and lead to a humanitarian crisis, the petition adds.
"... the State of Karnataka has acted in complete disregard for the people in the State of Kerala. This move has and will in the future cause great hardship to the people in Kerala in tackling with the present crisis of Coronavirus especially when essential items such as food and medical treatment have been denied to the people."
In addition, the petitioner has also sought for a Court monitored SIT probe to look into the actions and events that led to the two deaths in Kasargod due to the border blockade.
The petition has been filed by Advocate Pallavi Pratap and drawn by Advocate Haris Beeran.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday in a related petition in Kerala High Court with a similar plea, the Karnataka government informed the court that it could not open the Kasargod-Karnataka border, but would open its borders in Kannur and Wayanad districts.
(with input from barandbench.com)