Kerala patients needing urgent care can now enter Karnataka for treatment

Centre told SC an inter-state settlement has been reached on lifting the blockade of border roads

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The drivers association of the ambulance services demanded a CBI probe into their allegation and claimed that their salaries are also pending. | Representative Photo

Patients in Kerala requiring urgent medical treatment can now cross the state border and enter Karnataka amid restrictions imposed by the government in wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Reports suggest ambulances carrying such non-COVID-19 patients will now be given passage through the border.

The Union government informed the Supreme Court about this on Tuesday (April 7). Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde a settlement has been reached between the two state governments on lifting the blockade of border roads and parameters for passage of such patients at the border have been formulated.

Mehta told the bench the dispute between both the states on the blockade of roads following the coronavirus pandemic has now been resolved. Several patients from Kerala’s border district of Kasaragod travel to Mangaluru in neighbouring Karnataka for availing medical services. Such patients have to cross the Talapadi state border.

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The solicitor general said a meeting of Union home secretary with the chief secretaries of both Karnataka and Kerala has been held in compliance with the April 3 order of apex court and agreement has been arrived on the parameters for passage of patients for medical treatment at Talapadi border.

The bench said that then it can dispose of a batch of pleas including that of an appeal filed by Karnataka government against the April 1, order of Kerala High Court on the border issue.

On Monday, the Kerala government told the top court that Karnataka’s blocking national highways and border roads due to coronavirus, preventing people’s access to medical treatment and movement of essential goods, is in violation of fundamental rights of the Citizens.

It had said eight lives have been lost till date on account of the blockade of border roads by Karnataka and one person had died after an appeal was filed by Karnataka government in apex court against the high court order for opening of the borders.

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Kerala said the Union government, under whom the national highway fall, is duty bound to issue direction to Karnataka to remove such blockade for transporting patients requiring medical attention as well as essential goods to Kerala.

The top court on April 3 asked Kerala to not to precipitate the issue of opening of borders till further hearing while asking the chief secretaries of both states to hold discussions with Union health secretary for amicable settlement of the issue and decide on parameters to be maintained in case of health emergencies.

The Karnataka government’s plea, filed by advocate Shubhranshu Padhi, said, “The issue involved in the present SLP (special leave petition) is with regard to the closure of a road between the State of Karnataka and State of Kerala in order to combat the spread of the pandemic COVID-19…from the bordering Districts of the States.”

The plea said the order of the Kerala High Court has been passed wholly without any jurisdiction and is thus liable to be set aside. The state government said that Karnataka has locked down its borders in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 except the movement of essential commodities.

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“The State of Karnataka had specifically closed the Makutta Check post on the Mysore-Virajepat-Kannur highway. However, the High Court vide the Impugned Order has directed Central Government to intervene and remove the closure on the said road,” it said.

The high court on April 1 gave the order on a PIL seeking directions for opening of the roads connecting Kasaragod in Kerala and Mangaluru in Karnataka, which had been closed by Karnataka in view of the lockdown to check the COVID-19 outbreak.

The court had said the national highways come under the administrative jurisdiction of the central government and that the provisions of the National Highways Act clearly provide for the maintenance of such highways by it.

The arterial roads that connect Mangaluru in Karnataka, to Kasaragod in Kerala were part of the national highway network and it is therefore the duty of the central government to ensure the said roads are kept free of blockades, the court had said.

(With inputs from agencies)