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In a setback to the Karnataka government, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay a Kerala High Court  order asking the Centre to intervene and remove the blockades on the national highways connecting two states for ferrying people with emergency medical care and essential goods amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta said essential services vehicles should be allowed  to use the highway and suggested that a special committee that also includes the chief secretaries of the two states and the union health secretary  be formed to resolve the matter.

The matter will next be heard on April 7.

The Karnataka government had approached the apex court on Thursday after Kerala High Court on April 1 gave a verdict asking the the Centre to open the Kasaragod-Mangalore national highway . Though the high way opened briefly the next day. The Karnataka government

We are of the view that any further delay in issuing directions could entail loss of precious lives of our citizens. We may re-iterate that we expect the Central Government to act expeditiously in this matter, taking note of the human lives that are at stake, a bench of Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly ordered via video conferencing   had said after hearing a petition filed  by two lawyers against the closure of the highway by Kartnataka in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The court said this was not an appropriate time to impose such restrictions. A few deaths  have been reported from Kerala after Karnataka denied entry to vehicles from Kasargod  which is now a hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic. Karnataka’s  closure of the highway has brought misery to the people of Kasargod who have to depend on the neighbouring state for even medical purposes.

In its order the High Court said national highway is the property of the Centre and it is bound to ensure traffic on it.

-India Legal Bureau

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