Policy Statement To Improve Mental Health Services At Central, State Level Filed, Centre Tells SC
The Supreme Court bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao, in the course of the hearing of a Criminal Miscellaneous Petition of the NHRC in the 1981 PIL filed by Professor Upendra Baxi in respect of mental health care services in India, was informed by the Central government that the policy statement as to the future roadmap and the steps that need to be taken at the State and the Central level to improve the mental health services that have been found to be grossly deficient by the Technical Committee of Mental Health, set up by the NHRC, has been filed.
When the bench sought to hear the matter on a non-miscellaneous day in the presence of the amicus curiae, it was prayed that matter may be disposed off with the direction that the states shall implement the roadmap under the monitoring of the Union of India.
ASG Pinky Anand also submitted, “The Mental Health Care Act of 2017 has already been notified by the President and shall come into effect on July 7...if any concerns survive, the same may be examined post the enforcement of the Act”.
Thereupon, the bench proceeded to list the matter in mid-July.
The 1981 PIL pertained to the inhuman treatment of ‘inmates’ of a protection home in Agra and their right to live a life of dignity enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.
In the context of Dr Upendra Baxi Vs State of Uttar Pradesh and Others, the Supreme Court has continued to issue appropriate directions from time to time to ensure that the provisions enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution are meaningfully made available to persons with mental illness. Apart from the focus on the protection home in Agra and the involvement of the NHRC in supervising the mental hospitals at Agra, Ranchi and Gwalior, the Supreme Court had further directed the NHRC to monitor the mental health institutions/system in the country.
The NHRC had constituted a Technical Committee of Mental Health, with inter alia the following points of reference:
- To examine the state of mental health care infrastructure in all the States/UTs and identify the gaps/shortcomings in the same if any;
- To give specific and actionable suggestions about improvement in the mental health care infrastructure in the States/UTs so that the gaps and inadequacies which have been brought out are covered/taken care of;
- To guide the Commission and the Supreme Court about the status of Implementation of the National Mental Health Programme and the District Mental Health Programme in different States and Union Territories.
Some of the recommendations of the technical committee were as follows:
- The Central Government needs to identify a cross-cutting mechanism that will bring together different ministries and agencies and develop a plan of action for mental health service delivery (actionable plans outside of the health sector including disability benefits, other supports for persons with mental disorders and their caretakers, shelters and residential facilities, education and employment opportunities, grievance redressal, access to all the amenities and basic citizenship rights like identity cards, voter’s id cards, bank accounts etc);
- The Ministry of Health should monitor mental health human resource development on an annual basis. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that there are quality services in the public sector run by competent professionals following state-of-art treatments. An interim measure to engage the private and non-governmental sectors does not absolve the government from its commitment to universal mental health care.
- The Central government needs to oversee all components of mental health care service delivery at the state (apart from mental health care institutions, medical colleges, general hospitals, district hospitals) on a bi-annual basis.
- A national repository of resources for mental health literature and training will be maintained so that the states can draw from these resources.