Kerala Lockdown crisis: HC asks Psychiatrist to pay Rs 10,000 penalty on frivolous plea
Thiruvananthapuram: Expressing anguish over the petition filed by a renowned psychiatrist seeking opening of liquor shops amid the coronavirus lockdown, the Kerala High Court has ordered him to pay Rs 10,000 as fine for abusing the process of the court.The doctor moved the HC out of growing concern after reports of suicide by those who couldn't deal with withdrawal symptoms due to...
Thiruvananthapuram: Expressing anguish over the petition filed by a renowned psychiatrist seeking opening of liquor shops amid the coronavirus lockdown, the Kerala High Court has ordered him to pay Rs 10,000 as fine for abusing the process of the court.
The doctor moved the HC out of growing concern after reports of suicide by those who couldn't deal with withdrawal symptoms due to the unavailability of alcohol as the entire country is under a 21-day lockdown starting March 25; started circulating.
According to recent media accounts, while submitting his arguments via the petition, he pointed out that at least 10 people had committed suicide due to non-availability of liquor in Karnataka. He had sought a direction that liquor shops stay open for at least for a few hours and for sale of liquor to be limited.
The plea stated that during the lockdown, a certain class of people are deprived of consuming alcohol in any form or quantity. Social drinking has been in existence in India from time immemorial and Hindu scriptures mention that people during that period did consume Soma Rasa, regularly.
In his petition, the doctor submitted that alcohol if consumed in limited quantities is a relaxant of the body and mind. Many people do social drinking of alcohol and they are not branded as 'Alcohol Addicts'. Due to the lockdown, the public is deprived of procuring liquor which is resulting in mental depression, anxiety, hysteria outburst and abnormal behaviour. Alcohol withdrawal can result in a dangerous condition called 'Delirium', which is a medical emergency with significant morbidity and mortality. Further, depriving social drinkers from alcohol amounts to violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The plea also mentions that there have instances in Karnataka, where people have committed suicide due to non-availability of alcohol, plea added as quoted by Livelaw
On April 2, the HC had stayed the state government's decision to issue special passes to tipplers, who have withdrawal symptoms due to the non- availability of liquor in view of coronavirus lockdown, to get it on doctor's prescription, saying it was a "recipe for disaster."
"This is disturbing... This is a recipe for disaster," the court said in its oral observations and also questioned the state government whether it could prove withdrawal symptoms can be treated by the use of alcohol.
Staying the order for three weeks on a batch of petitions, including that of the Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA), challenging it, a bench comprising Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Shaji P Chaly had granted a week's time to the government to file its response.
The government had issued the order, despite objection from the doctors' association, to supply liquor to tipplers under prescription during the 21-day lockdown initiated to counter the spread of novel coronavirus.
The bench had further expressed concern over the government order prescribing alcohol to persons suffering from alcohol withdrawal syndrome and said such a remedy is not supported by any document in the medical literature. In its order, the government had said following the lockdown and closure of liquor outlets in the state, there were instances of social issues including frustration and suicidal tendencies shown by those who consumed liquor regularly and hence a decision was taken to initiate steps to resolve the matter.
PTI reported that the order also said that those who have physical and mental issues due to withdrawal symptoms could be provided liquor in a "controlled" and "prescribed" manner. The IMA had also flayed the Left government's plan to supply liquor to alcohol addicts based on doctor's prescription, saying it was not "scientific".
Now, during the recent hearing through video conference, the bench of Honourable Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna observed the arguments and questioned the grounds of the plea.
"Do you know how many people are starving? Is liquor more important than food for survival?" a division bench asked the doctor.
When the doctor cited the example of the US where he said liquor is available, the bench retorted saying the US is not under lockdown like India.
The court held:
there was no public interest involved in allowing opening of wine shops, especially when a large population is deprived of elementary requirement of food, during the lockdown period of 21-days.
The bench also said those addicted can be treated for withdrawal symptoms. It asked the doctor how much he was willing to pay for abusing the process of the court to which he agreed to pay Rs 10,000 and withdrew his plea. The court asked him to pay the sum into the CM's relief fund, reports TOI.
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