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Supreme Court Issues Notice In Plea Seeking Reforms In Mental Healthcare Facilities In Prisons Across The Country

Sohini Chowdhury
6 Sep 2022 5:44 AM GMT
Supreme Court Issues Notice In Plea Seeking Reforms In Mental Healthcare Facilities In Prisons Across The Country
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The Supreme Court, on September 2, issued notice in a plea seeking establishment of adequate Mental Healthcare Facilities in Prisons across the country. A Bench comprising Justices Abdul Nazeer and V. Ramasubramanian agreed to issue notice in the plea which also seeks direction to Union and State Governments to provide training and awareness to the prison staff and law...

The Supreme Court, on September 2, issued notice in a plea seeking establishment of adequate Mental Healthcare Facilities in Prisons across the country.

A Bench comprising Justices Abdul Nazeer and V. Ramasubramanian agreed to issue notice in the plea which also seeks direction to Union and State Governments to provide training and awareness to the prison staff and law enforcement authorities about Mental Health Act, 2017. Moreover it implores the Bench to direct that the concerned authorities ensure that medical examination reports of prisoners are prepared regarding the mental state of the arrested person at the time of admission in Hospital. It submits that medical examination conducted when the prisoners are admitted into prisons does not include mental health evaluation.

The petition avers that the lack of or insufficient Mental Health Establishments at the prisons is in blatant derogation of the mandate of Section 103(6) of the Mental Health Act, 2017, which requires every State Government to establish a Mental Health Establishment in the medical wing of at least one prison in the State.

The petition raises concerns about the inconducive prison environment, including issues of overcrowding, and elucidates on the adverse impact it has on the mental health of the convicts with often results in them committing suicide. To substantiate the claim, it provides NCRB data pertaining to suicides committed by prisoners in jail. It further submits that the prison authorities are either indifferent to mental health concerns or they do not have adequate infrastructure for providing medical assistance.

To emphasise that denial of adequate mental healthcare in prisons amounts to violation of fundamental rights of the prisoners, reliance is placed on State of A.P. v. Challa Ramakrishna Reddy And Ors. (2000) 5 SCC 712, which held -

"...the prisoners, whether a convict or undertrial, does not cease to be a human being and, while lodged in jail, enjoys all his fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India including the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution."

The judgment of the Apex Court in In Re Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons, which observed that death row prisoners should be allowed to have meetings with lawyers, family members as well as mental health professionals, is also referred to. International human rights instruments have also found mention in the petition to drive home the point that prisoners are not devoid of basic human rights.

Concerned about the present state of mental healthcare in prisons across the country, the petitioner had previously filed an application under the RTI Act questioning all State and Union Territories whether they have set up Mental Health Establishment in their prisons as mandated in the 2017 Act. Responses were received from 7 states covering 56 prisons. None of these 56 prisons have Mental Health Establishment. However, out of them 8 prisons have Psychiatrists available to provide assistance.

The petition has been filed through AoR, Ms. Jyotika Kalra.

[Case Title: Kush Kalra v. Union of India And Ors. WP(C) No. 701/2022]

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