Udayavni Special

Ker-Kar border issue: Why only those who can’t afford air ticket subjected to restrictions, questions HC

Team Udayavani, Mar 20, 2021, 11:12 AM IST

Bengaluru: Expressing displeasure over state government’s restrictions over the entry of travelers via road from Kerala amid a surge in Covid19 cases in the neighboring state, Karnataka High Court questioned why only those who have money can enter the State of Karnataka without restrictions.

Hearing public interest litigation filed by Advocate B Subbayya Rai, the court bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay S Oka observed that there were no such restrictions for those arriving into the State via flights from Kerala while road travelers were being discriminated against.

“Flights from Kerala operate to Karnataka without restrictions. So, if you have money you can enter the State of Karnataka without restrictions, but if you can’t afford to buy an air ticket, you will be subjected to all these restrictions. How can this be tolerated?” he questioned.

Observing that the modified order passed by the Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada on March 15 is misconceived and issued without any application of mind, the Court urged the State government to withdraw the same.

The modified order was passed after the Court had earlier pulled up the State government for imposing travel restrictions in violation of the Centre’s ‘Unlock’ guidelines which prohibit curbs on inter-state travel.

As per the order issued by Deputy Commissioner on March 15, all check posts are opened for the public except those which are rarely used by the public.

“Concerned local authorities as per the necessity (Gram Panchayat/Urban Local bodies/Municipality/Town Municipality) will be responsible for checking of RT-PCR negative report of the passengers coming into the district at every check post. In consideration of the situation, every gram panchayat,/urban local bodies/municipality/town municipality shall identify the points of the arrival in their respective jurisdiction to facilitate the public/ student opening of the checkpoint which are more likely to be used and closing of check post which are rarely used such decision must be taken and directions issued for arrivals from Kerala/Maharashtra state by Panchayat Taskforce committee which is already in existence,” it said.

Unable to see logic in the new order, the Bench opined that the order reeks of arbitrariness. In fact, the Court went ahead to term the March 15 as being “worse than the previous order”.

“This gives arbitrary power to local authorities to close any check post and open any check post anywhere…It is worse than the earlier order. At least earlier, there was clarity on which check posts were open,” the Court said.

The Bench also took strong exception to another clause in the order which directed authorities to check for illegal movements of cash and liquor in the wake of the upcoming Assembly polls in Kerala.

“A person who enters from Kerala is to undergo an RT-PCR test, but what if a person from Karnataka goes to Kerala and comes back in the afternoon, is he supposed to produce RT PCR negative report?” asked a bewildered CJ Oka.

Adding on to this line of thought, the Court said, “An ordinary citizen or resident of Karnataka enters the State of Kerala for some work, maybe for selling his goods and he comes back immediately. Will this man have to undergo a test? Suppose a person enters Kerala at 9 am and returns at 12 pm, so as per this clause, he will have to undergo a test in Kerala, the result will take a minimum of 6 hours to be known. The man will have to wait in Kerala till his RT-PCR test is known.”

In this light, the Bench allowed advocate K Ravishankar appearing for petitioner B Subbaya Rai to amend the petition and challenge the March 15 directions issued by the Deputy Commissioner and Chairman of District Disaster Management Authority, Dakshina Kannada district, Mangaluru.

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