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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 06 June 2020 8.03 AM IST

HC directs Centre to remove blockades on NH connecting Kerala with Karnataka

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KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the Central government to remove blockades erected by Karnataka on the national highways connecting the two states in the backdrop of coronavirus lockdown so as to allow free movement of vehicles carrying persons for urgent medical treatment.

A bench comprising justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly 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.

"...we feel compelled to issue directions to the Central Government today because we are of the view that any further delay could entail loss of precious lives of our citizens", the Court said in its order delivered on Wednesday night after a detailed hearing earlier in the day.

The order came amid reports of deaths of at least seven seriously ill persons after the ambulances carrying them to hospitals in Mangaluru, 15 kms from Kasaragod, were allegedly not allowed by Karnataka police on the borders.

The court 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 act even provides for penal measures to be taken against anyone blocking such a highway, it said.

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 that the said roads are kept free of blockades, the court said.

No doubt, restrictions may be imposed in times of a national emergency such as the present, but when the guidelines issued by the Central Government under the Disaster Management Act itself permits travel for urgent medical treatment, then the said guidelines have necessarily to be enforced by the Central Government through the removal of the blockades that prevent such travel.

"We, therefore, direct the Central Government to forthwith intervene in the matter and ensure that the blockades erected by the State of Karnataka on the National Highways... are removed forthwith, and without any further delay, so as to facilitate the free movement of vehicles carrying persons for urgent medical treatment, across the border between the two States," the court said in its order.

"We may reiterate that we expect the Central Government to act expeditiously in this matter, taking note of the human lives that are at stake", it added. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has recently taken up the matter of closure of the roads with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citing difficulties in movement of essential commodities and people seeking expert medical help.

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