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Delhi HC Left Aghast At Detention Of 72-Year Old In Violation Of Mental Health Act [Read Order]

The Delhi High Court recently censured a Magistrate and several mental health professionals for partaking in directing detention of a 72 year old man, Mr. Ram Kumar, by the Institute of Human Behavior and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) without complying with provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1987.

Mr. Kumar has been defending a claim petition before the Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal at Rohini for over 10 years now as the party-in-person. The claim pertained to an accident involving Mr. Kumar’s minibus, which was being driven by his son at the time of the incident.

As per the High Court order, during the hearing before the Tribunal on 3 November, some altercation took place between Mr. Kumar and the lawyers appearing for the claimants.

The Presiding Officer of the Tribunal then called in the Police and decided to send Mr. Kumar for medical evaluation to a nearby hospital. After a brief examination based on his argumentative behavior, he was referred to the psychiatric ward of the hospital for further medical examination. The doctor who examined him again noted that “no psychopathology was detected”.

Subsequently, Mr. Kumar was produced before the Duty Metropolitan Magistrate, who, after an interaction with him, concluded that he was to be kept under observation in IBHAS for another 24 hours, as he had a “very threatening attitude towards everyone” and seemed “potentially violent”.

The Bench comprising Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta noted that till this stage, none of Mr. Kumar’s family members had been informed of his detention, despite the fact that his address could have been easily ascertained from his case papers and his mobile phone.

It then observed that the petition reflected a “disturbing state of affairs as regards prima facie violations of the Mental Health Act, 1987 at various levels”.

The Court noted that the Magistrate had, thereafter, passed another order authorizing Mr. Kumar’s continued detention without referring to Section 28(1) of the Act, which mandates the Magistrate to call for a ‘medical certificate’ in respect of the allegedly mentally ill person. This, it said, was “clearly contrary” to the provisions of the Act.

“Without such certification, continued detention of the Respondent No.4 at IHBAS prima facie appears to have erroneously ordered by the Duty MM,” it observed.

The Court further pointed out that Mr. Kumar’s detention was extended by 15 days, even though the Magistrate is empowered to order it only for a period of 10 days at a time. Besides, this was done without Mr. Kumar having proper representation before the authorities. He was now admitted in Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital as his heart condition had deteriorated due to lack of proper treatment during his detention.

Condemning the authorities for their conduct, the Court then ruled, “The Court is left in no doubt that there has been a total violation of the mandatory provisions of Section 28 (1) read 24 (2) (a) of MHA at every stage in these proceedings. In none of the proceedings did the Duty MM/MM ensure that the Respondent No.4 was represented by counsel. No question was even put to him in that regard. The orders passed, on the reports of IHBAS, have resulted in a violation of the fundamental right of Respondent No.4 to life and liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

It, thereby, directed that Mr. Kumar be released as soon as he is found fit for discharge, and set aside all orders of Mr. Kumar’s detention, directing that a copy of its order be placed before the concerned Committees of the High Court on the administrative side supervising the work of the Magistrate who passed the impugned orders for appropriate action.

The Court has also sought an explanation from the IBHAS as well as the mental health professionals who examined Mr. Kumar to explain the reason for their actions.

It has further directed the copy of the order to be forwarded to the Director of Delhi Judicial Academy. He has been directed to organize at least four exclusive orientation courses on the Act next year, for the benefit of judicial officers as well as the mental health professionals of IHBAS and other similar institutions in Delhi. The matter has now been listed on 14 December.

Read the Order Here

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