The Uttarakhand High Court on Friday directed the State to formulate a comprehensive policy for rehabilitation of mentally ill children and patients.
While issuing a slew of directions, the Bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sharad Kumar Sharma also asked the State to ensure that they are not treated by Tantrics and quacks. Besides, it also directed the State to gather Epidemiological Survey Data on mentally ill children through National Institute of Mental Help and Neurosciences, Bangalore (Karnataka) within six months.
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by one Dr. Vijay Verma, who had highlighted the plight of mentally ill children, and the failure of the State Government in formulating a policy for their welfare.
At the outset, taking note of the provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 and the current steps being taken by the authorities for the welfare of mentally ill children, the Court emphasized on the importance of comfortable and safe environment for them. It observed,
“Every person with mental illness is entitled to clean, safe and hygienic environment, adequate sanitary conditions, reasonable facilities for leisure, recreation, education and religious practices, food, proper clothing to protect such person from exposure of his body to maintain his dignity, and not be subjected to compulsory tonsuring (shaving of head hair), to be protected from all forms of physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse in any mental health establishments run by the State and granted permission by any private institution provided approval by it.”
The Court went on to specifically take note of two cases where minor disabled children were kept chained by their parents due to lack of resources to take care of them. Sympathizing with the children as well as the parents, it opined that the family of mentally ill children remain under immense stress and strain.
It then noted the importance of endowing “constant love, care, passion and compassion” on such children, and highlighted the role of the society in aiding the growth and development of such children, while ensuring that they are treated humanely. It observed,
“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 sincere endeavor to assimilate/integrate the persons who are mentally disturbed in the society. All of us must provide due care and protection to mentally disturbed persons, since it is difficult for them to take decisions of their own. The role of the society is to make an endeavor to protect the rights of mentally disturbed children as guardians and custodians.”
Thereafter, the Court disposed of the Petition with the following directions:
Unchain mentally ill children
- The District Magistrate, Udham Singh Nagar and Senior Superintendent of Police, Udham Singh Nagar are directed to remove the chains of Ms. Chandni D/o Narayan Das R/o Subhash Colony, Rudrapur within six hours. These Officers are also directed to shift Ms. Chandni to the Mental Health Hospital, Selaqui within 24 hours.
- The District Magistrate, Rudraprayag and Superintendent of Police, Rudraprayag are directed to remove the chains of Mr. Pankaj Rana within six hours. They are further directed to shift Mr. Pankaj Rana to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh within 24 hours.
Rs. 50,000 compensation and Rs. 5,000 monthly payment to such chained children
- The District Magistrate, Udham Singh Nagar and the District Magistrate, Rudraprayag are directed to pay and release the ex gratia payment of Rs.50,000/- each to the guardians of Ms. Chandni and Mr. Pankaj Rana within 24 hours for the treatment of their wards.
- The respondent-State is directed to pay a monthly stipend of Rs.5,500/- each to the guardians of Km. Chandni and Mr. Pankaj Rana for their care and protection including treatment.
Comprehensive policy for such children
- The State Government is also directed to prepare a comprehensive Policy for rehabilitating the mentally disturbed children and patients.
- All the SSPs/SPs, throughout the State, are directed to ensure that the mentally disturbed patients are not treated by Tantrics, Quacks etc. and also to ensure that the mentally disturbed patients are not chained/ shackled/fettered/ill-treated or kept in solitary confinement even in the private homes and institutions.
Survey within six months
- The State Government is directed to conduct the Epidemiological Survey Data in the State to determine the mentally retarded/disturbed children through National Institute of Mental Help and Neurosciences, Bangalore (Karnataka) within six months from today.
Setting up of Centre for Human Rights, Ethics, Law and Mental Health
- The State Government is advised to set up Centre for Human Rights, Ethics, Law and Mental Health with the objectives, as stated in paragraph no.40 of the judgment.
Authorities under the Act
- The State Government is directed to constitute the State Authority under Section 45 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 within three months from today.
- The State Government, thereafter, shall constitute the Board to be called ‘Mental Health Review Board’ as per Section 73 of the Act within eight weeks.
Directions for the State Government under the Act
- The State Government is directed to provide mental healthcare and treatment to all the persons with mental illness at an affordable cost, of good quality, available in sufficient quantity, accessible geographically and without any discrimination.
- The State Government is directed to incorporate mental health service into general service at all levels including primary health centers in all health programmes.
- The State Government is directed to ensure that no person with mental illness including children and illiterate persons are transferred to long distances to access mental health service.
- The State Government is directed to ensure that every person, with mental illness, as per Section 20, is protected from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in any mental establishment.
- The State Government is directed as per Section 29 to plan, design and implement programmes for the promotion of mental health and prevention of mental illness in the State.
- The State Government is also directed to take all necessary measures to give due publicity to the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 through public media, including television, radio, print and online media at regular intervals.
- The State Government is also directed to ensure that no person or organization establishes or runs mental health establishment unless registered with the authority constituted under the Act.
- The persons suffering from mental illness shall be admitted in the Establishment as per Section 86 of the Act.
No electro-convulsive therapy
- The practice of electro-convulsive therapy without the use of muscle relaxants and anesthesia, except with the express consent of guardian, is prohibited in the State of Uttarakhand.
- The State Government would ensure that no person with mental illness is subjected to electro-seclusion or solitary confinement.
Mentally ill prisoners/ inmates
- All the Medical Officers of the Prison or Jail are directed to send quarterly reports to the concerned Board certifying therein that there are no prisoners with mental illness in the prison or jail.
- The person in-charge of the State run custodial institution (including beggars homes, orphanages, women’s protection homes and children homes) is directed to ensure that any resident of the institution has, or is likely to have, a mental illness, he shall take such resident of the institution to the nearest mental health establishment run or funded by the appropriate Government for assessment and treatment.
Duties of police officers
- Every police officer in the State of Uttarakhand is directed to take under protection any person found wandering at large within the limits of the police station whom the officer has reason to believe has mental illness and is incapable of taking care of himself. Every person taken into protection is ordered to be taken to the nearest public health establishment forthwith.
- It shall also be the duty of every police off