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Supreme Court issues notice to Union Government on Mental Health Act

D.N.I.S. News Network In a significant move, the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Union Government seeking a submission in the next two months on the implementation of the Mental Health Act 1987.

While hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a three-Judge Bench comprising Justice Y. K. Sabharwal, Justice B. N. Srikrishna and Justice R. V. Raveendran asked the Union Government to respond to the submissions by an Ahmedabad-based social activist who sought changes in the 1987 Act to bring it in consonance with a 1991 United Nations r Resolution and the G guidelines framed by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) thereafter.

The Bench was also hearing a petition relating to the death of 25-chained inmates of a mental asylum at Erwadi in Tamil Nadu in a fire in August 2001, of which the Court itself had taken suo motu cognizance, according to a media report.

The petitioner submitted that the Government had failed to implement the Act as well as the U.N. R resolution commonly known as the "Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and Implementation of Health Care." He said that based on the R resolution, the W.H.O. laid down 10 basic principles for the protection of persons with mental illness.

The petitioner contended that in India over 25 million people were in need of mental health services and hence this issue had been requires to be treated as a national emergency. The Mental Health Act enacted to consolidate and amend the law relating to the treatment and care of mentally ill persons was "woefully inadequate" in terms of treatment and medical care to mentally ill patients. He sought a direction to the authorities concerned to implement the provisions of the Act.