As it turned out, the Uttarakhand High Court in the landmark case of Dr Vijay Verma v Union of India & others in Writ Petition (PIL) No. 17 of 2018 issued a series of directions meant to extend basic human dignity to the mentally challenged and safeguard their interests. It directed the State to formulate a comprehensive policy for rehabilitation of mentally ill children and patients. This is certainly very commendable and a positive step in the right direction.
Unchain mentally ill children
1. The District Magistrate, Udham Singh Nagar and Senior Superintendent of Police, Udham Singh Nagar are directed to remove the chains of Ms. Chandni D/o Narayan Das R/o Subhash Colony, Rudrapur . These officers are also directed to shift Ms. Chandni to the Mental Health Hospital, Selaqui .
2. The District Magistrate, Rudraprayag and Superintendent of Police, Rudraprayag are directed to remove the chains of Mr. Pankaj Rana . They are further directed to shift Mr. Pankaj Rana to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh .
Rs. 50,000 compensation and Rs. 5,000 monthly payment to such chained children
1. The District Magistrate, Udham Singh Nagar and the District Magistrate, Rudraprayag are directed to pay and release the ex gratia payment of Rs.50,000/- each to the guardians of Ms. Chandni and Mr Pankaj Rana for the treatment of their wards.
2. The respondent-State is directed to pay a monthly stipend of Rs.5,500/- each to the guardians of Km. Chandni and Mr. Pankaj Rana for their care and protection including treatment.
Comprehensive policy for such children
1. The State Government is also directed to prepare a comprehensive Policy for rehabilitating the mentally disturbed children and parents.
2. All the SSPs/SPs, throughout the State, are directed to ensure that the mentally disturbed patients are not treated by Tantrics, Quacks etc. and to ensure that the mentally disturbed patients are not chained/shackled/fettered/ill-
treated or kept in solitary confinement even in the private homes and institutions.
The State Government is directed to conduct the Epidemiological Survey Data in the State to determine the mentally retarded/disturbed children through National Institute of Mental Help and Neurosciences, Bangalore (Karnataka) from today.
Setting up of Centre for Human Rights, Ethics, Law and Mental Health
1. The State Government is advised to set up Centre for Human Rights, Ethics, Law and Mental Health with the objectives, as stated in paragraph no. 40 of the judgment.
Authorities under the Act
1. The State Government is directed to constitute the State Authority under Section 45 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 from today.
2. The State Government, thereafter, shall constitute the Board to be called ‘Mental Health Review Board’ as per Section 73 of the Act .
Directions for the State Government under the Act
1. The State Government is directed to provide mental healthcare and treatment to all the persons with mental illness at an affordable cost, of good quality, available in sufficient quantity, accessible geographically and without any discrimination.
2. The State Government is directed to incorporate mental health service into general service at all levels including primary health centers in all health programmes.
3. The State Government is directed to ensure that no person with mental illness including children and illiterate persons are transferred to long distances to access mental health service.
4. The State Government is directed to ensure that every person, with mental illness as per Section 20 is protected from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in any mental establishment.
5. The State Government is directed as per Section 29 to plan, design and implement programmes for the promotion of mental health and prevention of mental illness in the State.
6. The State Government is also directed to take all necessary measures to give due publicity to the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 through public media, including television, radio, print and online media at regular intervals.
7. The State Government is also directed to ensure that no person or organization establishes or runs mental health establishment unless registered with the authority constituted under the Act.
8. The persons suffering from mental illness shall be admitted in the Establishment as per Section 86 of the Act.
No electro-convulsive therapy
1. The practice of electro-convulsive therapy without the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia, except with the express consent of guardian, is prohibited in the State of Uttarakhand.
2. The State Government would ensure that no person with mental illness is subjected to electro-seclusion or solitary confinement.
Mentally ill prisoners/inmates
1. All the Medical Officers of the Prison or Jail are directed to send quarterly reports to the concerned Board certifying therein that there are no prisoners with mental illness in the prison or jail.
2. The person in-charge of the State run custodial institution (including beggars homes, orphanages, women’s protection homes and children homes) is directed to ensure that any resident of the institution has, or is likely to have, a mental illness, he shall take such resident of the institution to the nearest mental health establishment run or funded by the appropriate Government for assessment and treatment.
Duties of police officers
1. Every police officer in the State of Uttarakhand is directed to take under protection any person found wandering at large within the limits of the police station whom the officer has reason to believe has mental illness and is incapable of taking care of himself. Every person taken into protection is ordered to be taken to the nearest public health establishment forthwith.
2. It shall also be the duty of every police officer to report to the Magistrate if any person, suffering from mental illness, is being ill-treated or neglected.
1. The State Government is directed to frame the Policy, as undertaken, to register the children suffering from mental illness .
2. The State Government is also advised to open more Mental Care Establishments taking into consideration the large number of persons suffering from mental illness for their proper treatment, protection and care.
3. The State Government is directed to open District Early Intervention Centers (DEICs) in every district of the State .
4. The State Government is directed to ensure that henceforth, no mentally disturbed/retarded person is found on the streets. The concerned SSP/SPs are directed to shift them to the nearest mental health institutions/place of safety.
All said and done, it is an exemplary and excellent judgment. It will always come to the aid of those who are mentally ill and those whose voice goes unheard and unrepresented. All courts from bottom to the top must study in detail this landmark judgment and try to always adhere to it both in letter and spirit!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.