Attempted suicide may not be a crime

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 29, 2014 23:38 IST

The Union Cabinet on Thursday will consider a bill to remove stigma from treatment of people suffering from mental ailments, decriminalising suicide and prohibiting electro-convulsive therapy.

A person attempting suicide should be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code, the revised draft bill incorporating a slew of recommendations made by a Parliamentary Committee says.

With the health ministry accepting many of the committee’s recommendation the original bill has been completely overhauled. The new version of the Mental Healthcare Bill has been submitted for Cabinet’s consideration and if approved would be introduced for passage in the resumed winter session of Parliament stating from February 5, a senior ministry official said.

A big change from the original bill is that the proposed legislation accepts complete rights of a person suffering from mental illness including decisions to be taken on his or her treatment. The bill also provides for more rights to mental health patients as envisaged in the original bill including decision on their treatment.

The new version also provides for right of a person to seek treatment for mental illness at any government run hospitals and makes it mandatory for insurance companies to provide health insurance to persons suffering from mental illness like to any other person. “Mental illness cannot be a reason for denying insurance cover,” a health ministry official said.

Apart from doctors, the bill also makes it mandatory for magistrates and police officers to ensure that a person suffering from mental illness has right to get free legal service.

The bill also strengthens the regulatory framework for ensuring that such patients get proper treatment in hospitals and are able to live life with dignity. The bill also prescribes penalty for in-human behaviour against mental health patients including chaining them or keeping them in confinement. “Their seclusion is banned as per the new draft,” an official said.

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