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New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the governments of Karnataka and Kerala to amicably resolve the border issue amid the three-week nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Karnataka government had moved the apex court challenging the Kerala High Court, which directed the Centre to remove the border blockade imposed by the state government restricting the movement of patients from Kerala to access emergency medical care in hospitals.

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta said chief secretaries of Kerala and Karnataka should hold a discussion with the Union health secretary and work out a solution amicably to facilitate the movement of people for medical treatment.

Earlier, a petition was filed by Kerala MP Rajmohan Unnithan challenging Karnataka’s decision on restricting movement on the border.

The Kerala government had filed a caveat on the matter. The Supreme Court observed that no state government should precipitate the matter at this juncture when a nationwide lockdown is in place to contain the spread of the virus.

In its petition, Karnataka government claimed the implementation of the High Court order would lead to law and order issues as the local population is objecting to the movement of people from Kasargod district, which has a high number of COVID-19 cases.

The Karnataka government insisted that this would hamper its efforts since Kasargod is a hotspot of coronavirus cases, and the border was sealed in the interest of public health emergency.

It claimed the High Court of Kerala overstepped its territorial jurisdiction under Article 226(2) of the Constitution. The High Court held Karnataka’s road blockade resulted in the denial of access to health services, which amounted to an infringement of the right to life under Article 21.

“The High Court failed to consider that the hospitals in Mangaluru, Dakshin Kannada district, are already overburdened and the people residing in Mangaluru are in panic due to the increasing number of cases in the Districts of Kerala, especially in Kasargod district. It is humbly submitted that the resources of the State of Karnataka are hard pressed and it is very difficult to cater to the needs of new patients from the State of Kerala,” said the Karnataka government petition.

The case is essentially a dispute between two state governments; hence it falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 131. Therefore, the High Court should have not passed orders on the PIL, Karnataka government said.

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