New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to frame guidelines for rehabilitation of persons who have been cured of their mental illness, observing that the issue was “very sensitive”.
A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar observed that after mentally ill persons are cured, not even their family members are willing to take them back home. “It is a very, very sensitive issue. You (Centre) should apply your mind. When a person goes to a mental asylum and after treatment he is cured, no body is willing to take him back to home. You (Centre) should think over it,” the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, said.
The apex court told Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, representing the Centre, that the government “cannot allow a person to be kept” in a mental asylum or a nursing home after he or she is fully cured of the ailment. “They have to be brought back to civil society. You will have to frame a policy,” the bench said. “It is very easily achievable. You give us a model scheme. We will then put it to the state governments and ask them. Give us a scheme,” the court told the Centre.
The Solicitor General, however, told the bench that they needed some time as two ministries — Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Justice — were involved in this process. The apex court gave eight weeks time to the Centre for this.
“The proposal made to the Centre by this court has been tentatively accepted and the Union of India will frame guidelines/scheme for rehabilitation of mentally sick persons, who are in a mental asylum or a nursing home, and have been fully cured after treatment,” the bench said.
The apex court also asked the government to place before it the guidelines or scheme for its consideration and posted the matter for hearing after eight weeks.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by advocate G K Bansal who has raised the issue of release of about 300 persons from various mental hospitals in Uttar Pradesh, alleging they were still languishing there despite being cured of their ailments and most of them belonged to poorer sections.
The apex court had earlier favoured framing of a uniform national policy to deal with those suffering from mental illness and their release from hospitals after being cured. It had issued notice to the Union Health Ministry, saying the issue figured in the concurrent list of the Constitution and hence the Centre also has the authority to frame norms. The PIL has alleged that many underprivileged persons were still languishing in mental hospitals despite being cured and there was no policy in place to ensure their well-being after release.
The plea has also referred to responses received under the RTI with regard to the release of persons living in mental hospitals at Bareilly, Varanasi and Agra in Uttar Pradesh even after being cured. The queries, which were posed under transparency law to Mental Health Hospital, Bareilly, Institute of Mental Health and Hospital, Agra and Mental Hospital, Varanasi, pertained to names, residential address and age of the patients who were now normal and waiting for discharge from these hospitals.
Bansal had also sought information about the year in which the patients were declared fit for discharge. The plea has sought issuance of directions to states and others to “forthwith make arrangements to shift the patients, who are absolutely normal and are fit for discharge, from the mental hospitals to any other secure place like Old Age Homes etc.”