Homeopathy medicine is contemplated to be used in preventing and mitigating COVID-19 as is reflected by the advisory and guidelines issued by the Ministry of AYUSH, the Supreme Court observed while modifying some observations made by the Kerala High Court.
The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah observed that the High Court is right in its observation that no medical practitioner can claim that it can cure COVID-19.
The Kerala High Court, while disposing of a PIL filed by a lawyer, had held that medical practitioners in AYUSH system can prescribe the medicines, but only as immunity booster.
The High Court had observed :
"If any qualified doctor practising AYUSH medicine, makes any advertisement or prescribes any drugs or medicines, as a cure for COVID-19 disease, except those specifically mentioned in Annexure-I advisory to Exhibit-P1 D.O. letter dated 6.3.2020, it is open for the respondents to take appropriate action under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the orders of the Governments, both Central as well as the State, issued from time-to-time. Only those tablets or mixtures shall be given as immunity booster and not as cure for COVID-19. AYUSH medical practitioners are further directed not to violate the Government Order dated 6.3.2020. In this regard, Medical/Police Departments are also directed to monitor the action of AYUSH medical practitioners.", it was observed in the order.
Dr. AKB Sadbhavana Mission School of Homeo Pharmacy, approached the Apex Court against the observations made by the High Court contending that they would cause grave prejudice to the homoeopathy doctors, who treat the patients. The direction to take action under the Disaster Management Act is very harsh and the said order has been passed without hearing the doctors, who are affected by such orders, they contended. In response to this, Central Government informed the Court that specified Homoeopathic medicines can be prescribed as "add-on treatment" for Covid-19 and thus, it is incorrect to say that homeopathic medical practitioners cannot prescribe any treatment to Covid 19 positive patients.
The court noted that advisory issued by the Ministry of AYUSH specifically permits use of Homeopathy for following three ways:- (i) Preventive and prophylactic; (ii) Symptom management of COVID-19 like illness; (iii) Add on interventions to the conventional care. The court noted that Homeopathic medical practitioners are not only confined to prescribe Homeopathic medicines only as immunity booster. Referring to the Homeopathic Practitioners (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Code of Ethics) Regulations, 1982, the bench observed:
"When statutory regulations itself prohibit advertisement, there is no occasion for Homeopathic medical practitioners to advertise that they are competent to cure COVID-19 disease. When the Scientists of entire world are engaged in research to find out proper medicine/vaccine for COVID-19, there is no occasion for making any observation as contained in paragraph 14 with regard to Homeopathic medical practitioners. The homeopathy does not cure the disease, but it cures the patients.".
The court also noted the guidelines issued by AYUSH Ministry under the heading "Homeopathic approach" and observed thus while modifying the High Court judgment:
The above guidelines refer to Homeopathy medicines as medicines for prophylaxis, Amelioration and mitigation. The guidelines, however, specifically provides that "the prescription has to be given only by institutionally qualified practitioners". The High Court in its impugned judgment has not fully comprehended the guidelines dated 06.03.2020 and taking a restricted view of the guidelines and have made observations for taking appropriate actions against the Homeopathic medical practitioners, which cannot be approved. The High Court, however, is right in its observation that no medical practitioner can claim that it can cure COVID-19. There is no such claim in other therapy including allopathy. The High Court is right in observing that no claim for cure can be made in Homeopathy. The Homeopathy is contemplated to be used in preventing and mitigating COVID-19 as is reflected by the advisory and guidelines issued by the Ministry of AYUSH as noticed above.
CASE: DR. AKB SADBHAVANA MISSION SCHOOL OF HOMEO PHARMACY vs. SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF AYUSH [ CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4049 OF 2020 ]
CORAM: Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah
COUNSEL: Adv Venkita Subramoniam, SG Tushar Mehta