A special sitting of the Kerala HC on 10/05/2020 heard a writ petition filed by Advocate Harish Vasudevan seeking immediate State action for facilitating the entry of the persons stranded at the Walayar check-post since 09/05/2020.
It was argued by the petitioner that the stranded people had obtained passes from the State of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but could not get the online pass to enter Kerala as the online platform was not “properly functional”.
It was also highlighted that among those stranded, there are pregnant women, children, students, senior citizens and people with medical illness. The petitioner also pointed out that there were some students stranded at Malahalla check-post, which though is not an entry point permitted by the State, but is close to Muthenga entry point permitted by the State government.
The Advocate-General contended that the State has issued an order dated 02/05/2020 that delineates the regulatory measures to be followed by the inter-State passengers crossing the border of the State of Kerala and the guidelines to be followed by the State officials.
The people who came to Walayar on 09/05/2020 happened to be stranded since they did not adhere to the guidelines issued by the State. The State further submitted that the online platform provided for the application of passes was functional throughout and all allegations made contrary to the same were untrue. It was also pointed out that the State is strictly adhering to the directives, orders and advisories issued by the Central Government.
After due perusal of the mentioned order, the Court observed that the right to travel and reside anywhere throughout the territory of India irrespective of State boundaries is a fundamental right under Art. 19(1)(d) and (e) and also a right protected under Art. 21 of the Constitution.
“However, the State is at the liberty to impose reasonable restrictions under Art. 19(5).” The Central and State governments are authorised to take such measures under the powers vested on them under the provisions of the Epidemics Act 1897, the Disaster Management Act 2005 and the Kerala Epidemics Diseases Ordinance 2020.
The court noted that the present stringent measures were imposed in the interest of the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and thus reasonable. The Court also noted that it was an admitted fact that the people stranded at Walayar did not have passes issued by the State of Kerala.
The court, treating it as a “special circumstance”, allowed their entry and directed the State to take appropriate measures to facilitate the same. Preference is to be given for pregnant women, children and senior citizen.
However, the court categorically clarified that “the order cannot be treated as a precedent for any future purposes.” The court also directed the government to attend to the needs of the 13 students stranded at Malahalla immediately, as it is a forest area having the presence of wild animals. Furthermore, the court also directed the government to co-ordinate better with other State governments concerning inter-State travel to avoid any inconvenience.
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