A 2015 WHO report suggests that one in five Indians is likely to suffer during their lifetime from depression.
Premised on this and the social stigma attached with persons facing psychological issues, an advocate has moved the Delhi High Court seeking effective implementation of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which took a leap from the previous 1987 Act by including provisions to honour the rights of mentally ill persons, decriminalising attempted suicide, advance directive where a person gets the treatment he prefers or has consented to and the right to legal aid.
Advocate Amit Sahni says in his PIL that the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which came into effect on May 29, 2018 has been described in its opening paragraph as, “An Act to provide for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of such persons during delivery of mental healthcare and services and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.
This Act superseded the previously existing Mental Health Act, 1987 that was passed on 22 May 1987.
Sahni says the object of the Act is to provide mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of such persons during delivery of mental healthcare and services etc but due to failure of the government to constitute State Mental Health Authority and the Mental Health Review Board.
The absence of these bodies is adversely affecting the treatment of mentally ill persons.
The PIL also stresses on the dire need for sensitizing police as Section 100 (7) mandates that in case a person with mental illness is found homeless, an FIR of missing person shall be lodged at concerned police station and the police shall be duty bound to trace the family of such person but in reality, it is found that upon rescue of mental health person, police does not lodge FIR but a mere Diary entry.
Sahni also rues how “transfer of persons with mental illness from one Mental Health Establishment under Section 93 in absence of Board, has been rendered ineffective”. The Act also provides for free legal services to mentally ill persons but Sahni says no programme has been started by the State Legal Service Authority, Delhi in this regard.
“A policy action plan needs to be chalked out by Delhi State Legal Service Authority and sensitization programme of the magistrates, the police officers and the persons in charge of custodial institutions needs to be conducted,” he says in the PIL.