Everybody cannot be allowed to Treat: SC on AYUSH practitioners prescribing COVID medicines
New Delhi: Highlighting its stand in the context of prescribing drugs for curing and preventing Covid-19, the Supreme Court observed that everybody cannot be allowed to prescribe medicines. The apex court also directed the Centre to file a counter-affidavit detailing in what manner and to what extent Alternative Medicine by way of Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Siddha are permitted to treat COVID-19 patients.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file the counter affidavit within a week on the plea against the August 21 order of the high court.
The direction came while hearing an appeal against the Kerala high court order which had said that AYUSH medical practitioners can prescribe government-approved mixtures and tablets only as an immunity booster for Covid-19.
Medical Dialogues team had earlier reported that the PIL sought a direction to the Secretary Department of Ayush government, Secretariat Trivandrum, and the State Government to ensure that homeopathy practitioners are immediately allowed to perform in accordance with the notification of Ayush ministry issued on 6th March 2020 to include homeopathy and other naturopathy treatment in the fight against COVID-19.
The petitioner had submitted that the state government is not taking the necessary steps following the direction of the Ayush ministry's notification.
However, the counsel representing the state government had submitted that "Ministry of Ayush, the government had formed an expert committee for charting protocols for treatment for the management of COVID-19. In the said guidelines issued by the Government, Homeo medicines were not included."
After hearing the contentions, the High Court had allowed the Ayush practitioners to prescribe medicines as immunity boosters and noted;
"There is nothing prohibiting the qualified medical AYUSH practitioners to prescribe immunity booster mixture or tablets, as suggested by the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India, New Delhi. When the Central, as well as State Governments, have approved prescription of certain mixtures and tablets, as immunity boosters, qualified medical practitioners in AYUSH can also prescribe the same, but only as immunity boosters."
It subsequently dismissed the plea and held;
"If any qualified doctor practicing 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 a 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."
However, the High Court's order was recently challenged in the apex court, wherein, the SC asked Mehta whether there are any guidelines in this regard by the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy).
"Are there any guidelines by the Ministry of Ayush? This has effect all over the country! Everybody can't be permitted to treat", observed the bench, also comprising Justices R. Subhash Reddy and M. R. Shah.
"And these can be used only as a booster, not for curing", added the bench.
Agreeing to the same, the solicitor general while stating that he would place on record the guidelines on this aspect replied;
"The judgment is right. They are not supposed to do this. There is an advisory on which symptoms these systems of medicine can treat and to what extent, what medicines can be prescribed- everything is there."
"Yes. They are not a cure or treater, but only a booster", the SG added.
Accordingly, the court granted a week's time for the same adding that it required the SG to file a counter-affidavit, in addition to the aforesaid guidelines, reports PTI.