Can’t shift mental health patients to beggars’ homes, SC to Maha

Two patients with mental disorders are seen chained.

New Delhi, (Asian independent)┬áThe Supreme Court on Tuesday took a strong view on shifting patients lodged in mental health institutions to beggars’ homes in Maharashtra and direct the state government to discontinue this practice.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah noted that advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal has highlighted that Maharashtra has decided to shift persons who are institutionalised in mental health establishments to beggar homes/custodial institutions.

“Mr Gaurav Kumar Bansal has also submitted that deaths are reported to have occurred. Such an approach by the state fovernment would be contrary to the provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017,” said the bench in its order.

As Sachin Patil, standing counsel appearing on behalf of Maharashtra, submitted that he would take instructions, the bench said: “While the standing counsel may do so, we are categorically of the view that any such action to shift such persons to ‘beggar homes’/custodial institutions would be counterproductive and contrary to the letter and spirit of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017. We accordingly direct the State of Maharashtra to look into this aspect immediately and ensure that this practice is discontinued.”

The top court also noted that the onset of Covid-19 has precipitated the hardships faced by persons facing mental illness in terms of access to medical care and treatment.

Bansal, the petitioner in person, insisted that the issue of testing, tracing and vaccinating those suffering from mental illness must be taken up on a priority. The bench also directed the Centre to test people lodged in mental health establishments for Covid-19 and fully vaccinate them at the earliest.

“Persons who are institutionalised in mental health establishments need to be vaccinated so as to protect them,” it said.

Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, representing the Centre, assured the court that this matter would be taken up with utmost priority.

The bench said the Department of Social Justice should take it up immediately with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare so that suitable instructions are given, and a plan is chalked out for all the states/Union Territories for ensuring the vaccination of persons who are institutionalised in mental health establishments.

The court also directed Chief Secretaries to make representations in the meeting to be convened by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on July 12 to ensure compliance of the court’s earlier order for submitting a plan for rehabilitation of people who are still staying in hospitals or mental asylums. The bench said a status report should be filed before it at least a week before the next date of listing.

“All states and Union Territories shall before the meeting ensure that: (i) The discrepancies in the data, as noticed in the earlier order of this Court, are resolved; and (ii) A status report on the implementation of the directions in regard to the establishment of Halfway Homes is filed,” said the top court, listing the matter on July 27 for further hearing.

The top court order came on the PIL filed by Bansal for rehabilitation of mental patients.