KOCHI: Terming the state government order to provide alcoholics with three litres of liquor on doctor’s prescription to counter withdrawal symptoms as a ‘recipe for disaster’, the Kerala High Court on Thursday stayed it for three weeks.
A division bench comprising Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Shaji P Chaly issued the interim order while admitting the petition filed by Congress MP T N Prathapan and Kerala Government Medical Officers’ Association (KGMOA) general secretary Dr G S Vijayakrishnan.
The court observed that no document in medical literature supports such a prescription. “This is a recipe for disaster,” the court observed orally. “How can alcohol withdrawal syndrome be treated by providing alcohol?,” the court asked the government.According to Prathapan, the decision will affect the state’s social fabric dangerously. Kerala has about 14 de-addiction centres and six counselling centres under the Vimukthi mission. The government should take steps to effectively implement projects rather than make liquor available through whatever ways possible. KGMOA pointed out that when a person presents himself as a patient, the doctor’s primary duty is to provide him with the necessary treatment.
This principle is applicable even in the case of a patient having Alcohol Dependence Syndrome (ADS). But through the latest order, the doctor was required to certify that the patient is having withdrawal symptoms so as to enable him to obtain a pass to buy liquor. Such an act by a doctor is contrary to his bounden duty and against the oath taken by him, stated the association.
State Attorney K V Sohan submitted that similar orders to provide liquor were issued in states where liquor was banned. In fact, allowing those suffering from withdrawal symptoms to consume liquor on a moderate scale was part of the de-addiction treatment protocol. Many deaths have occurred in the state due to non-availability of alcohol caused by the lockdown, he pointed out.
Dr N Dinesh, national chairperson of the National Mental Health Wing (NMHW) of the Indian Medical Association had also approached the court against the government move. The petition stated the government decision to supply liquor to patients suffering from AWS with doctors’ prescription was unethical.
State to comply with HC order
T’Puram: The state government will abide by the High Court order that stayed its move to provide liquor to people heavily addicted to alcohol provided they obtain prescription from the doctor, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Thursday. “We have clarified earlier also that family members (of people addicted to alcohol) should insist on taking them to Vimukthi (de-addiction) centres,” Pinarayi said during his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 situation. Earlier, Excise Minister T P Ramakrishnan said the state government will comply with the High Court order. He said the government was trying to find a solution to a social issue, especially in the wake of suicides allegedly by people with withdrawal symptoms. The minister said future course of action will be decided after discussion with legal experts. He said the court verdict cannot be seen as a blow to the state government.