KOCHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to ensure blockades erected by Karnataka on National Highways connecting Kerala are removed to facilitate the free movement of vehicles carrying people with medical emergencies across the border. The court expressed optimism the Centre will act expeditiously considering the lives at stake.
A Division Bench comprising Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly passed the order in a hearing held through video-conferencing on a plea filed by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association. The Centre informed the bench that the Home Ministry-initiated conciliation talk between the chief secretaries of Karnataka and Kerala remained inconclusive. Additional Advocate General Ranjith Thampan submitted that citizen’s right to life is at stake and that Karnataka’s action is illegal. Six lives were lost due to the blockade.
P K Navadgi, the Advocate General for Karnataka, opposed the plea vehemently and submitted that it is a dispute between two states and only the Supreme Court can entertain such an issue. The court then asked whether it doesn’t have jurisdiction when the fundamental rights of the people of Kerala are involved. The fundamental rights guaranteed to each citizen under our Constitution are to be protected zealously by the State, which refers jointly to the Centre, states and Union Territories that together form the Union of India.
Kerala-K’taka talks on road blockade end in a stalemate
Karnataka cannot contend it is not obliged to respect the fundamental right of a citizen residing outside its territorial limits. So long as it is an integral part of the Union of India, the State of Karnataka has necessarily to respect, and guarantee, the fundamental rights of a citizen of this country, irrespective of the place of his residence or domicile within the country, the court said.
The court made it clear that NHs come under the administrative jurisdiction of the Centre. The arterial roads connecting Mangaluru to Kasaragod are part of the NH network and it is the Union Government’s duty to ensure the said roads are kept free of blockades. Meanwhile, talks between Kerala and Karnataka ended in a stalemate. “We had a meeting with the Union Home Secretary and the Chief Secretary of Karnataka via video-conferencing,” Chief Secretary Tom Jose told TNIE.
“We urged Karnataka to allow smooth passage for ambulances from Kerala carrying people with medical emergencies. However, Karnataka refused saying Kasaragod was a hotspot of coronavirus infection.” According to him, the Union Home Secretary suggested implementation of the Centre’s Standard Health Protocol for cross border transportation. While Kerala agreed to the demand, Karnataka refused. The state also turned down Kerala’s demand to open up border roads, especially the Virajpet route.