The Kerala High Court on Thursday stayed the order issued by the state government to allow liquor supply to an individual on submission of doctor’s prescription that shows the person is suffering from withdrawal syndrome.
The stay has been ordered for three weeks.
A bench of the high court comprising justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly called the government order “disturbing” and a “recipe for disaster”.
The interim order was passed on petitions filed by Congress MP TN Prathapan, Indian Medical Association and Kerala Government Medical Officers Association.
Congress MP TN Prathapan, who approached the court, said: “Just fail to understand why the Kerala government has been so adamant on this instead of concentrating on its work to fight coronavirus spread. Giving liquor to those with withdrawal symptoms is an unpardonable act.”
Reacting to the government order, Justice Nambiar said, “We are concerned that the State Government has taken a unilateral decision to administer more alcohol to persons suffering from alcohol withdrawal syndrome. This is disturbing,” and added, “This is a recipe for disaster.”
“No document in medical literature supports such a prescription of alcohol to persons with alcohol withdrawal syndrome”, the judge said, according to Live Law.
On Tuesday, the Kerala government had directed the Excise Department and the sole wholesaler of liquor and beer in the state, Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco), that liquor should be delivered at the homes of people showing withdrawal symptoms.
The Centre had said on Wednesday that supply of liquor at homes does not come under the purview of the Disaster Management Act.
The Congress-backed Bevco staff unions, however, had said its members will not do home delivery.
Bevco had said it will charge Rs 100 for home delivery of three litres of either rum or brandy for a week to the eligible persons.
After Vijayan’s direction to the Excise Department, the Kerala Chapter of Indian Medical Association (IMA) had said that providing alcohol to those undergoing withdrawal symptoms is not scientifically acceptable.
The medical body said writing a liquor prescription can result in the cancellation of the right to treatment.
“Scientific treatment should be given to those who have alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It can be treated at home or in hospitals with medicines. It is not scientifically acceptable to offer alcohol to them. Doctors have no legal obligation to provide a prescription for alcohol,” IMA said in reply to Vijayan.
The CM’s direction to the Excise Department came as suicide cases were reported from various parts of the state after liquor sales were stopped following the Coronavirus lockdown.
The state government, a few days after the lockdown began, finally decided to close down all the bars and then the retail outlets selling liquor and beer in the state.