The Kerala High Court Thursday imposed a stay on the decision of the state government to provide alcohol to those producing a doctor’s prescription reporting withdrawal syndrome.
Noting that it is a ‘recipe for disaster’, a bench of justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly passed an interim order, applying a stay of three weeks on the decision of the CPM-led government. The order was passed in response to petitions filed by the Kerala chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA) and Thrissur MP TN Prathapan.
In the wake of the national lockdown and the subsequent closure of retail liquor shops, the state government had passed an order on March 30 directing the excise department to provide liquor in a ‘controlled’ and ‘prescribed’ manner to those who can produce prescription or an ‘opinion’ from doctors that he/she is suffering from withdrawal syndrome. With such a note, the patient can approach the excise department office which will subsequently issue a ‘medical pass’ which can be used to obtain liquor from BEVCO, the state monopoly over retail liquor distribution.
The order was severely criticised by doctors’ association claiming that it was unethical for them to prescribe liquor in order to cure issues arising out of dependency. The government claimed that it had issued the order following instances of social issues including frustration and suicidal tendencies shown by those addicted to alcohol.
The High Court asked the state attorney how an alcohol withdrawal syndrome be treated using alcohol itself. The attorney, representing the government, stated that the moderate administering of alcohol was a recognised practice to resolve withdrawal symptoms and that there had been a number of suicides in the state due to such issues.
The bench noted its concern that the state government had taken a unilateral decision to make such a move.