The Supreme Court has directed states to take remedial measures for better treatment of women in mental health institutions and also for rehabilitation of those who are cured of mental illnesses and need the state’s support for sustenance.
The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and Hima Kohli has sought compliance reports from states on the directions issued by it with regards to vaccination of persons suffering mental illness and also with regards to setting up of halfway homes for rehabilitation of those who are cured of mental illnesses.
In pursuance to the communication issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for vaccination of persons with mental illness in mental health care institutions, the court directed all states and Union Territories (UT) to lay down a time schedule for facilitating the same. The court thus sought a progress report to be filed by October 15, detailing the steps taken and the number of persons in mental health care institutions inoculated with the vaccination for Covid-19. The court also stated that vaccination should be not just of the patients but also of the health care professionals an other staff working there.
The petitioner, Gaurav Kumar Bansal, highlighted the issue where Maharashtra had shifted people who were cured at mental health institutions, to beggar homes or old age homes. The court found this to be an insensitive approach, however, noted the action taken by the state in the past 2 years and directed that on or before 30 November 2021, the cured persons are duly placed with institutions which are capable of meeting the requirements of such persons whoare no longer mentally ill, but are in need of being placed in Half-way Homes, so that their rehabilitation and care can be pursued. The state government also informed that court in July that it will set up half-way homes within 6 months and the court asked the government to abide by this undertaking and until then take aid of NGOs.
The court, after perusing the status report of the Union government found that UP had merely designated old age homes as half way homes and the court held that this did not amount to valid discharge of its duties. Merely, re-designating the existing old-age homes in all the 75 districts as Half-way Homes is only lip service to the need for having actual Half-way Homes where the requirements of rehabilitation are duly observed, the court stated and directed UP government to rectify this within 3 months and submit compliance within 3 months.
Overall, the court said that establishment of Half-way Homes and Rehabilitation Homes must take place on priority across the country. The court observed that no real progress was made by the states in this regard and tasked the Union government to apprise the court of the progress periodically.
Further, the court has also directed the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to set up an online dashboard with details of availability of institutions, facilities provided, capacity, occupancy and region-wise distribution of the Half-way Homes set up by states and UTs. The court said that it will hear the matter in December and until then the Ministry should hold monthly meetings to track progress of states in setting up halfway homes and for the rehabilitation of persons who have been cured of mental illness.
Plight of women in mental health institutions
It was also brought to the court’s attention that women, who are institutionalised in government run mental health establishments, were faced with serious human rights violations including lack of sanitary napkins, lack of privacy, illegal cutting of hair, lack of identity cards, lack of disability certificates, lack of disability pension and not being allowed to keep their children with them as there is no separate mother-child ward in many of the government run mental health establishments.
The court has directed the Ministry to highlight these issues in the monthly meetings with the states and ordered states to take remedial measures and to file compliance within 3 months.
The case will next be heard on December 14.
The complete order may be read here: