The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre and the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) in a plea seeking for directions with respect to violation of Section 21(4) of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 whereby insurers are bound to provide medical insurance for treatment of mental illness.
A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justices Rohinton F. Nariman, Navin Sinha and BR Gavai heard the matter and issued notice to the Union Health Ministry and the IRDAI. Section 21(4) of the MHC Act states that every insurer is bound to make a provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for treatment of physical illness. The plea, filed by Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, states that despite the existence of the statutory provision and a letter issued by IRDAI directing all insurance companies to comply with Section 21(4), there has been no follow-up by IRDAI regarding its compliance nor has any action been taken against errant insurance companies for not adhering to the provision. The plea goes on to aver that the inclusion of Section 21(4) is a result of the ratification of UNCRPD by the Government of India. "Article 21 of UNCRPD deals with HEALTH and Clause (e) of the same deals with prohibition of discrimination against Persons with Disabilities in the provisions of HEALTH INSURANCE as well as LIFE INSURANCE." It has been submitted in the PIL that the Supreme Court has been continuously monitoring the issue of rehabilitation of thousands of persons who are fit for discharge, but are languishing in different hospitals. In this context, the inaction of IRDAI has deprived thousands from taking benefit of the Health Insurance Scheme. "Needless to mention here that the term REHABILITAION in itself is a broad term which includes medical, physical, occupational, communication and psychosocial services as well as training in everyday skills and mobility." The grievance of the Petitioner lies in the reluctance of IRDAI in taking immediate action against the insurance companies, and its casual stance on the inclusion of Persons with Mental Illness in Health Insurance Scheme. "Instead of levying punishment on Insurers for not including the provision of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, Respondent No. 2 is bypassing its responsibilities." Therefore, the petition has been filed seeking for directions to implement Section 21(4) of the MHC Act and for an Action Taken Report to be submitted on the issue of its implementation. During the arguments, the Petitioner-in-Person informed the Bench that the red tape attitude of IRDAI was the reason the provisions were not being complied with, and that the failure of this compliance was leading to a lot of hardship for mentally ill persons. The Supreme Court accordingly issued notice to the Union Health Ministry and IRDAI
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