Bombay High Court hears mental health law plea, calls for government response

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The Bombay High Court on Wednesday called on the Maharashtra government to respond to a PIL asking for the implementation of the Mental Health Act 2017 and an investigation into mental health care facilities that fail to regularly assess mental health. status of patients to determine if they can be allowed to live in the society.

The plea said implementing the law would protect the rights of people with mental illness and allow them to move mental health review boards to seek release. It also calls for the implementation of Supreme Court guidelines regarding mental health care homes and patients with mental illness.

A divisive bench of Judge SS Shinde and Judge SV Kotwal heard the PIL filed by psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty, which highlighted the plight of patients admitted to institutions, including a woman, who was languishing at Thane Regional Psychiatric Hospital for 12 years. The plea claimed that neither the woman’s husband nor her family were willing to accept her although her condition was declared normal in 2014 and she was ready to be released. She was admitted to the facility in 2009.

The HC was told that although the hospital followed the Mental Health Act 1987, which stipulated periodic examinations and reports, the woman ended up spending ’12 precious years of her life’ at the Thane facility and was only released in 2021 after the recommendation of a panel of court-appointed experts.

In accordance with the PIL, a family court judge noted that the woman’s search for the Mental Health Review Board was “arduous” and that she could not benefit from the 2017 law. The judge said also raised the possibility of other people similarly languishing in mental health facilities. After the government lawyer asked for time to take instructions from officials to respond to the plea, Judge Shinde called the lawyer and wondered how the state could be ‘casual’ in ‘critical matters’. regarding matters concerning the general public” while asserting that the same was not adversarial litigation.

Subsequently, Attorney General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni appeared before HC and asked for time to respond to the plea while saying he would consider the Supreme Court’s order in a similar matter before making submissions. The HC accepted this and posted the next hearing for April 12.

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