3 April 2022 7:42 AM GMT
The Patna High Court has granted 'one last opportunity' to the Bihar Government to file its response by April 7 over the implementation of the provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 in the state.The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar has also asked the Union of India to file an affidavit and specify as to whether each one of the statutory provisions and the...
The Patna High Court has granted 'one last opportunity' to the Bihar Government to file its response by April 7 over the implementation of the provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 in the state.
The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar has also asked the Union of India to file an affidavit and specify as to whether each one of the statutory provisions and the rules framed under the 2017 act stands complied with or not.
The bench ordered thus while dealing with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea moved by the party-in-person Akanksha Malviya alleging that the Bihar Government had categorically failed to provide for and meet the needs of the people with their rights as regards to mental health and that this was a gross violation of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
It may be noted that on Feb 10, the High Court had directed the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar, to forthwith take all steps ensuring the establishment of the State Mental Health Authority as stipulated under Section-45 of the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.
In a strongly worded order, the Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar had also observed that the mental health of a person and/or treatment of those who are in need, more so during the time of Covid-19, is the least priority of the State Government.
Now, on April 1, while hearing the matter and after persuing the affidavit filed by the State Government, the Court underscored the following points related to the Act and its implementation:
- Whether there is any mechanism in place dealing with the mandatory requirements of the statute or directives whereby and whereunder the person has a right to specify in advance the manner in which he wishes to be cared for and not to be cared for and treated for a mental illness and whether an Online Register as mandated by Section 7 has been set up and is being duly maintained?
- What are the steps undertaken to be made or already stand taken with respect to the right of community living for persons with mental illness under Section 19 where they have rights to not remain in Mental Health Establishments etc.?
- The Act under Section 20 grants a right of protection from cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and Section 21 provides for a right to equality and non-discrimination. Whether the staffs of already existing mental health institutions have been trained in accordance with these provisions to ensure the realization of these important basic rights?
- What are the steps taken in fulfillment of the duties imposed on the appropriate Government in this case, the Government of Bihar, vide Chapter VI, in particular Sections 29 and 31 which deal with promotion of mental health and preventive programme and human resource development and training respectively?
- The State to furnish detailed reasons as to why the time line provided under Section 45 of the Act for the establishment of the Mental Health Authority (nine months) has not been complied with, as noted in our order dated 10.02.2022.
- What are the steps that have been taken in furtherance thereof. Section 66 of the Act provides the procedure for inspection and enquiry of mental health establishments. Details of inspection and enquiry as also under Section 67, carried out be furnished by the relevant authority before the next date.
- Section 100 of the Act details duties of Police Officers in respect of persons with mental illness. Whether any training, awareness or sensitization programme has been undertaken to ensure that police officer are able to carry out their duties towards this vulnerable group of people?
- Section 103 is titled as 'prisoners with mental illness'. The authorities to furnish particulars of such prisoners as also the steps taken to ensure the preparedness of prisons for accepting such inmates?
- Section 123 grants power to State Authority to make regulations with respect to a minimum standard of quality etc. Whether the State has framed such Rules? If in the affirmative, a copy of the said Rules be supplied to the Court.
- We may also note that the importance of this Act is reflected also in Section 125 where the Central Government has been bestowed with the power to remove any difficulty arising in giving effect to the provisions of the Act. Although there was a limitation to this section of two years from the date of commencement of the Act, the legislative intent is clearly that of furthering and improving the mental health institutions and their regulations.
Having highlighted the abovementioned issues/questions, the Court observed said that it was saddening to see that the State of Bihar, even after the passing of more than four and half years, had not taken adequate steps in line with the intention of the Parliament.
Further, the Court also noted that the State had not addressed any one of the issues in its affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar.
"From the supplementary counter affidavit dated 23rd of March, 2022, filed by the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar, it is not clear as to whether the provisions of Rule 6 of the Mental Healthcare (State Mental Health Authority) Rules, 2018 (hereinafter referred to as the "Rules") stands complied with or not? Also, it is not clear as to whether the provisions of Section 62 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 stands complied with or not?... We are informed that there is only one mental health establishment registered within the State of Bihar. It is not clear as to whether such information is correct or not? Also, the Government has to specify as to whether there is any need for having more such establishments or not? We are saying so based on the population of Bihar. Almost 1/10th people of India live within the State of Bihar," the court observed as it gave one last opportunity to the state government to filed its response over the implementation of the act and its rules in Bihar.
The Court also directed the State that in the event of non-compliance with the Court's order, the court would pass orders directing the personal presence of the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar as also the Principal Secretary (Health)/ Incharge of the Department.
Advocates Vishal Kumar Singh, Akash Keshav, Deepak Kumar Singh, and Shashwat appeared for the petitioner.
Case title - Akanksha Maviya v. The Union of India & Ors.
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