Topic: General Studies 2
- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
COVID-19: Inter-State Movement (Kerala-Karnataka Case study)
The lockdown imposed by authorities in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic has restricted inter-state movement which has opened up the questions on Federalism in India.
This has been exemplified in the Kerala-Karnataka border issue
Brief Background of the issue
- NH-66 connects the Kasargod district of Kerala with Mangalore of Karnataka
- Many in Kasargod district of Kerala depend on medical facilities in Mangalore for emergencies, while others rely on inter-State movement for essential medicines to reach them
- Karnataka had closed the NH on 21st March, which was opposed by Kerala
- Karnataka’s action was based on the fact that Kasaragod has Kerala’s largest number of positive cases of COVID-19
What has been Judiciary’s stand on this?
- The Kerala High court observed that the Mangaluru-Kasaragod stretch was part of the National Highway network and has directed the Centre to ensure free vehicle movement on this stretch.
- Karnataka contended that it was not bound to act on an order issued by the Kerala High Court.
- Centre is yet to act on this order
Concerns raised in this issue
- Article 21: Denying emergency medical aid amounts to a violation of the right to life and liberty
Similar actions by Kerala government
- Kerala Governor promulgated the ‘Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020’ to arm itself with extraordinary powers to deal with the pandemic.
- One of its clauses says the State can seal its borders for such period as necessary – similar to what Karnataka government has done
- Another provision empowers Kerala government to restrict the duration of essential or emergency services, including health, food supply and fuel
Human Rights Vs State’s Public Health Security
- Whether legal measures taken by the State to prevent the further spread of an epidemic can extend to a point where there is no exception even for medical needs
Division of Power:
- Inter-State migration and quarantine are under the Union List
- While the prevention of infectious diseases moving from one State to another is under the Concurrent List.
- This means that States have the power to impose border restriction
- However, the responsibility to prevent a breakdown of inter-State relations over such disputes is on the Centre.
- The concern of Karnataka is legitimate given that there is a danger of spread of infection from a district which is an hotspot of the COVID-19.
- Nevertheless, its actions should not cause constraints on movement of essential medicinal supplies
- Centre has to broker an agreement between both states at least for the movement of essential items needed for health & survival.
Connecting the dots
- Interstate Council and Zonal Councils
- NH-766 between Kerala & Karnataka and its issues