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Abandoned Woman With No Psychiatric Symptoms Incarcerated In Mental Health Facility For 12 Yrs: PIL Filed In Bombay High Court

Sharmeen Hakim
30 March 2022 9:45 AM GMT
Abandoned Woman With No Psychiatric Symptoms Incarcerated In Mental Health Facility For 12 Yrs: PIL Filed In Bombay High Court
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Plea seeks implementation of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which makes provision for periodic review of patients' conditions.

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Advocate General of Maharashtra to appear in a PIL highlighting the plight of a woman who was rescued from a mental hospital after 12 years, mainly due the non-implementation of the new Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 in Maharashtra. The PIL filed by city psychiatrist Dr. Harish Shetty states that the new Act provides for Mental Health Review...

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Advocate General of Maharashtra to appear in a PIL highlighting the plight of a woman who was rescued from a mental hospital after 12 years, mainly due the non-implementation of the new Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 in Maharashtra.

The PIL filed by city psychiatrist Dr. Harish Shetty states that the new Act provides for Mental Health Review Boards for patients to seek remedies under the Act, including an early discharge. However, in the woman's case, the board was not available.

After the bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and Sarang Kotwal briefly heard the petitioner's lawyer they observed that it was a "crucial issue" and asked for the Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to be present in the afternoon session.

Kumbhakoni sought time on behalf of the State and submitted that all the Supreme Court's orders will have to be looked into.

The matter will now be taken up on April 12, 2022.

In his plea, Shetty cited the glaring case of a woman who was placed in the Regional Mental Hospital in Thane on her husband's application in 2009, and kept there till the Family Court intervened in November, last year.

The Family Court ordered on the Psychiatric medical officer's report who observed that the woman "did not have significant psychiatric symptoms." Another Express Committee formed by the court to evaluate her condition said "could be discharged since she was coherent and her thoughts relevant."

The order sending her to the facility was used in the divorce proceedings filed by her husband to keep her out of the matrimonial home and restrict her re-entry. She was not only abandoned by her husband but, also her own family, the bench noted.

According to the plea, the Thane facility was still following the repealed 1987 Act, which did provide for six monthly examinations but the wife had already spent 12 years in the mental hospital. On record, the woman was discharged in 2014 itself, she was sent back after her husband refused to take her custody.

"I can only sympathize with her for she spent 12 precious years of her life under confinement of Thane Regional which is no less than incarceration," the Family court judge Swati Chauhan observed in the November order.

She added that the search for the Mental Health Review Board was "fruitless" and how so many men and women may be suffering in such mental hospitals.

The PIL seek a comprehensive report on the status of all persons in such mental health facilities, and a review of their status for discharge by the board under the new Act. The plea states that despite orders having been passed by the Supreme Court regarding the discharge of such persons, the situation seems to be far from that.

He further seeks an investigation against the Thane Mental facility.

Shetty highlights the section 19 of the new Act which ensures the right of persons with mental illness to live and be a part of integrated society. It states that a person cannot be confined to a mental hospital merely because he/she doesn't have a family or is abandoned by them.

Section 19(2) of the Act provides that an abandoned person shall be provided support and appropriate legal aide by the State to live in the family home.

According to section 18(5)(c) only in exceptional cases long term care in a mental health facility should be provided, while section 88 (1)makes the medical officer in-charge of mental health care.

Section 89 (5) acknowledges the right to leave the facility. The respondents include the State of Maharashtra, State Mental Health Authority and Regional Mental Hospital.

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