The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday, January 12, pulled up the Karnataka government and also issued a show-cause notice to the Congress over the Mekedatu padayatra, asking how it could be allowed amid the current COVID-19 situation. The Karnataka High Court was hearing Public Interest Litigation by Nagendra Prasad AV seeking directions from the court to stop the rally amid the rising COVID-19 cases in Karnataka
Hearing the plea on Wednesday, the Karnataka High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Suraj Govindaraj, questioned why the rally was allowed to be carried out amid rising COVID-19 cases and asked if the government was incapable of taking action. The bench also directed the government to clarify by January 14 what action it has taken to prevent the rally.
The bench has also questioned how the Congress violated COVID-19 guidelines and took up the rally. The court questioned the timing of padayatra and directed the Congress party to respond by January 14. The court will hear the case further then.
The counsel for the state government submitted to the court that FIRs have been lodged against Congress leaders for the padayatra even though political rallies have been banned in the state. The bench expressed concern over the issue and observed that the state is already affected by the COVID-19 crisis and how such a thing, which is against the interest of the public, could take place.
The Mekedatu padayatra was taken up by KPCC President DK Shivakumar to demand the speedy implementation of the Mekedatu project which aims at supplying drinking water to Bengaluru. The padayatra, which began on January 9, has turned into a political flashpoint in the state. On Sunday, there was much drama after a health official went to DK Shivakumar to collect his samples for a COVID-19 test. However, the KPCC President refused, alleging that this was a ploy by the government to declare him as positive for coronavirus to make him stop the padayatra.
Later, officials who had visited Shivakumar tested positive for coronavirus and Shivakumar alleged that the official was deliberately sent by the government to infect him. The BJP retaliated and said that it was the other way around and the official had been infected when he had been near the crowd around Shivakumar. State Home Minister Araga Jnanendra has claimed that hundreds of participants in the rally have tested positive.
"I have information that hundreds of people who are taking part in the padayatra are COVID-19 positive. Some of the leaders who participated have already tested positive and under treatment. Several of the leaders are participating despite testing positive," he alleged.
Before the 'padayatra', the number of cases in Ramanagara and Mandya districts were very less but after the inauguration of padayatra, both districts are witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, he said.
DK Shivakumar and Opposition leader Siddaramaiah are leading the protest march participated by thousands of people and party workers. The Congress has taken up the 10-day padayatra demanding speedy implementation of the Mekedatu project for providing drinking water to Bengaluru and surrounding areas. Tamil Nadu has objected to the project and the matter is before the Supreme Court.