HC to govt: Form state mental health authority within 3 months
The court also asks the government to conduct an epidemiological survey within six months and register children suffering from mental ailmentsUpdated: Jun 01, 2018 22:23 IST
In a landmark order on mental healthcare, the Uttarakhand High Court on Friday directed the state government to constitute a state mental health authority within three months. The court has also asked the state government to conduct an epidemiological survey (medical survey) in the state within six months to determine the number of mentally challenged or disturbed children and prepare a comprehensive policy for rehabilitating such children and patients.
The court also directed the state government to frame a policy within six months to register children suffering from mental ailments.
In its 56-page judgment, the court directed the state government to ensure that mentally challenged/disturbed patients are not chained/shackled/fettered/ill-treated or kept in solitary confinement at homes and institutions.
The division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Sharad Kumar Sharma gave these directions while disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Dr Vijay Verma.
Verma, in his petition, highlighted the plight of mentally challenged children, who at times, do not even get proper food, care and medicines and are forced to live in miserable conditions. The petition was filed for framing a policy to register all mentally challenged children and to take remedial measures by legislation. But the court enlarged the scope of the petition.
The HC pointed out that according to a media report published in December 2017, a 14-year-old mentally challenged girl, Chandni, living in Rudrapur (US Nagar), had been kept chained for years by her parents. Her father, a daily wager, was unable to provide for her treatment. The same media report also claimed that one Pankaj Rana, 22, from Rudraprayag district had also been kept chained. Pankaj was suffering from ‘quadriparesis’ which renders limbs immobile as well as aphasia which affects the comprehension of speech.
The high court has directed district magistrates and senior superintendent of police Udham Singh Nagar to remove Chandni from chains within six hours and shift her to the Mental Health Hospital, Selaqui, within 24 hours.
The court also directed the district magistrate and senior superintendent of police Rudraprayag to remove Pankaj Rana’s chains within six hours and shift him to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, within 24 hours.
The HC gave these directions citing various provisions in the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. The bench emphasised that every person, under Section 18 of the Act, has a right to access mental healthcare and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government at affordable cost.
The order stressed that “the mentally disturbed children/patients have a fundamental right to privacy, dignity, self-respect, self-preservation, access to quality mental health care and sustenance. The Society should make a sincere endeavour to assimilate/integrate the persons who are mentally disturbed in the society. ..”