Kasargod, March 30, 2020: A Congress Lok Sabha member from Kerala filed a petition in the Supreme Court on Monday seeking directions to the Karnataka government to open its borders which it sealed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and allow movement of ambulances, emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying essential items into Kerala.
Rajmohan Unnithan, Lok Sabha MP from Kasaragod said in his petition that the decision of the Karnataka government to close its borders with Kerala was a dangerous and ill-planned decision as it has led to the disruption in supply of food and other essential items in his state and resulted in a humanitarian crisis.
The petition pointed out that Kerala is a consumer state and most of the groceries and vegetables come to Kerala from Karnataka through roads and highways connecting the Kasaragod district of Kerala with Mangaluru district of Karnataka.
“Now all the roads including the National Highways leading to the Karnataka state side are closed by the officials of the Karnataka State in the wake of the nation-wide lockdown against the Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted in stoppage of supply of goods and other essential items from the State of Karnataka to the State of Kerala,” Unnithan submitted.
Almost 200 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Kerala so far. In Karnataka, the number is 80.
The MP also pointed out that the people from Kasaragod district rely upon medical facilities in Mangaluru and due to the blockade by Karnataka, two persons have already died as they were denied entry for urgent medical treatment at a hospital in Mangaluru.
“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”, he said.
Kerala relies on the Kanyakumari-Kochi-Panvel National Highway (NH-66) for the transport of much of its essential goods from the rest of India. The Karnataka government decided to close its borders on March 21 as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of coronavirus. Roads including NH-66 were blockaded consequent to this decision.
Unnithan contended that NH-66 is the property of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) under the National Highways Act and no state government has the authority to block any national highway without the prior sanction of the NHAI. In this case, the NHAI has not given any sanction to block any of its highways, Unnithan told the apex court.
The petition also stated that the road closure by the Karnataka government affects the right of citizens to move freely throughout India which is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.
Further, it was also his argument that by impacting the supply of food and essential items, the Karnataka government also trampled upon the right to food of people which is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Unnithan contended that though the blockade by Karnataka was to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the move has resulted in a far graver consequence for Kerala and its people.
“It is imperative that the whole country comes together to fight the coronavirus as a whole. That unless there is complete cooperation among the states, it is the people who will suffer as can be seen from the result of the actions of the State of Karnataka”, the plea said.