NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday refused to entertain a plea challenging the Karnataka government's decision to restrict entry from Kerala at borders of Kasaragod and Mangalore only to those having a negative RT-PCR report saying there was no violation of the fundamental rights of persons.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai observed that COVID has not yet ended and the conditions imposed are not unreasonable and issued in the larger public interest.
The apex court said otherwise there is no restriction on the movement of citizens from Kerala to Karnataka.
The bench said the earlier restrictions have been relaxed by Karnataka by issuing a revised circular dated July 31, 2021, which had relaxed the requirement for RT-PCR test taken within 15 days from the date of travel.
This was done in the interest of students, business professionals, and others, it said.
"The rights of movement of individuals from the State of Kerala to the State of Karnataka is not restricted. There is no violation of any fundamental rights of persons in Kasargod district to travel to Mangalore or other parts of Karnataka. Circulars issued by the State of Karnataka cannot be interfered with by this court in the interest of larger public health. Therefore we see no reason to interfere," the bench said.
The apex court granted liberty to the petitioner to make a representation to the Karnataka government on the issue.
Advocate Haris Beeran, appearing for a Kerala MLA, submitted that the people in Kasargod depend on Mangalore city for education, medicare, and other needs.
It was also his contention that their travel to Mangalore daily has been inhibited by the circulars issued by Karnataka.
Beeran referred to the guidelines issued by the Centre to the states and Union Territories (UTs) which asked not to place any restrictions on the intra-state movement of persons and goods by air, water, or road.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by Manjeshwar constituency MLA A K M Ashraf challenging the September 28 order of the Kerala High Court which had dismissed two pleas challenging the Karnataka government's decision to restrict entry from Kerala at borders of Kasaragod and Mangalore only to those having a negative RT-PCR report, saying the neighbouring state was well within its powers to issue such directions.
The high court had said it was an admitted fact there was no blockade of the roads from Kerala to Karnataka and the restrictions, like a negative RT-PCR certificate, were imposed within that state because of the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 pandemic prevalent in Kerala.
"Therefore, going by the guidelines issued by the central government, it is clear that under any such circumstances, the states are given the power and responsibility to impose reasonable restrictions, to combat the disease.
"Therefore, state of Karnataka was well within its powers to issue circulars, orders or guidelines under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in consonance with various guidelines issued by the central government," the high court had said while dismissing the two PILs, one by Ashraf and the other by Jayananda K R, the Secretary of Rastrakavi Manjeshwara Govinda Pai Smaraka Samithi.
The high court had said that the Karnataka government has the necessary leverage to issue circulars, taking into account the situations prevailing in the neighbouring states of Kerala and Maharashtra.
"Viewed from that angle, it can never be said that a part of the cause of action for the writ petitions has arisen within the state of Kerala.
This is more so when there is no absolute prohibition for the citizens of Kerala to travel to Karnataka by any means, but we can only view it as restrictions imposed by the state of Karnataka.
"Whether the restrictions imposed within the State of Karnataka are reasonable or not, is a matter to be considered and decided by the jurisdictional High Court," the bench had said.