Kerala High Court has stayed a government of Kerala order allowing the sales of alcohol to anyone who produces a doctor’s prescription for the same.
A civil supplies department official had issued directions to liquor dispensing agencies instructing them to provide liquor in case a person came with a doctor’s prescription for the same.
At present, sale of non-essential items are frozen as part of a lock-down to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, and unlike in places like Punjab, liquor is not included in the list of essential items.
Nevertheless, Government of Kerala has said that it is wary of the impact that a sudden unavailability of liquor can have on addicts and allowed such people to procure liquor from government agencies if they can produce a prescription from a doctor.
The government had said that a sudden deprivation of alcohol to addicts may lead to law and order problems, including an increase in the production of home-made alcohol.
The High Court stayed the order issued by the Civil Supplies Department, claiming that there was no proof to support the government’s claims, and will continue to hear the matter.
The government order was challenged by the local wing of the Indian Medical Association, which too opposed the move.
Kerala High Court had earlier imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on a person who filed a case protesting the crowds seen in liquor shops and wanted the court to mandate an online mechanism for such sales to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, it is likely that the government will soon introduce an online portal to order liquor in Kerala.
Nevertheless, online sales of non-essential commodities too are under restrictions at present as part of efforts to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the Coronavirus that has led to the death of nearly 50,000 people across the world in the last two months.
Despite this, it is possible that the government will start allowing the delivery of non-essential goods soon, as consumers cannot live forever without items like clothes, footwear, electronic goods and so on — all of which fall under ‘non-essential’ items list.
Moreover, a prolonged shutdown of the sales of non-essential items has the potential to cause a massive disruption to the economy, throwing a large number of people of their jobs as companies shut down due to lack of sales.
For now, however, the state government seems to be waiting to see how the COVID-19 numbers for the country shape up over the next 12 days.
The lockdown will be reviewed on April 14.