The outbreak of COVID-19 halted inter-state travel in India for months. For the past few weeks, the government has allowed people to travel. Some of the travellers experienced difficulties at state borders. Recently the Kerala High Court heard a petition which articulated these difficulties.
The Petitioner’s Case
The petitioner’s case revolves around travellers stranded at the state border. The travellers were able to get passes from the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments. They could not do the same for the Kerala government as the website was not functioning. Hence, the state government officials did not let them past the border. The Kerala government had issued an order earlier this month. The order outlines the measures the government would take to ensure cross-border travel.
The State Government’s Position
The Advocate General, State of Kerala, refuted the claims of the petitioner. It was said that firstly, the state was following the measures mentioned in the order. Secondly, the allegation that the online platform was not functioning is false. Lastly, the government was following all prescribed measures. Further, it was stated the government was doing its best to aid travel across state borders.
Freedoms Guaranteed Under Article 19 Are Subject to Reasonable Restrictions
The right to travel across India is a fundamental right. Article 19(1)(d) and (e) guarantee this freedom. The State may subject these rights under Article 19 to reasonable restrictions. The Bench observed that, the restrictions imposed by the Central and State Government are as per their powers. The powers arise from:
- The Epidemics Act, 1897,
- The Kerala Diseases Ordinance, 2020, and
- The Disaster Management Act, 2005
Thus, the attempts made by the governments are to contain the pandemic from spreading. The restrictions will prevent the spread from reaching an unprecedented and uncontrollable level. This will, as a result, safeguard the public interest and the nation as such.
Hence, the restrictive orders and the advisories issued are not unreasonable. Moreover, they do not interfere with the fundamental rights enjoyed by the citizens.
The Court’s ruling
The Court directed the State Government to issue passes to all those stranded at the border. The Court directed the government to focus on issuing passes to certain people. Among these were pregnant women, children and senior citizens. The Bench also directed the government to collaborate with other states on issuing passes.
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