The High Court of Kerala on Thursday stayed the order issued by the Kerala Government on March 30 as per which Excise Department can permit supply of alcohol to a person on production of a medical certificate to the effect that he is suffering from alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
The stay is for a period of three weeks.
A bench comprising Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly passed the interim order on petitions filed by Congress MP T N Prathapan, and Kerala Government Medical Officers Association.
The doctors argued that they cannot prescribe alcohol as a cure for alcohol dependency. Such prescription is against basic medical tenets, they stated.
The judges stated the Government Order is silent on the medical diagnosis and prescription which the doctors should make for permitting alcohol supply.
"How can alcohol withdrawal syndrome be treated with alcohol itself?", Justice Nambiar asked State Attorney K V Sohan.
State Attorney submitted that moderate administration of alcohol is a recognized practice to cure alcohol withdrawal syndrome. He said that many deaths have occurred in the State due to non-availability of alcohol due to lockdown.
"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", Justice Nambiar observed.
"This is a recipe for disaster", Justice Nambiar remarked.
"No document in medical literature supports such a prescription of alcohol to persons with alcohol withdrawal syndrome", the judge added.
Counsel for medical officers submitted that the doctors will be liable for legal and disciplinary action if they prescribe alcohol as a cure to alcohol dependents.
As per Kerala Government Order, a person should get a certificate from the doctor regarding alcohol dependency.
The guidelines explained in the order say those having 'alcohol withdrawal symptoms' can approach the outpatient department of any government run hospital, including medical colleges. The consulting doctor can issue a prescription or 'opinion' in writing certifying that the patient is having withdrawal symptoms. Once the prescription is submitted to the excise department range or circle office, along with an application in prescribed format and government provided identity proofs, the 'pass' can be issued by the concerned authority. It is the duty of the excise office to inform the Managing Director of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation on the permit given to each and every patient. They also have to provide permissible levels of IMFL as per the 'Abkari Act' of Kerala.
At least six person have reportedly killed themselves due to the non-availability of alcohol during the lockdown period.
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