Gauhati High Court grant authorities time to complete process and allot necessary budgetary provisions for mental Health Review Boards
The Gauhati High Court granted respondent authorities time till 31.03.2023 to complete the process and also to allot necessary budgetary provisions for the same so that the Mental Health Review Boards and Committees start functioning effectively from 01.04.2023.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Rashmin Manharbhai Chhaya and Justice Soumitra Saikia closed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed prayed for the following reliefs:
“It is, therefore, prayed that your Lordships may be pleased to admit this petition, call for the records and issue a Rule calling upon the respondents to show cause as to why –
(a) Suo Moto judicial scrutiny/enquiry of the mentally ill inmates in the correctional homes of Assam be taken up.
(b) Directions to respondent authorities shall not be issued for directing furnishing of status reports with regard to the number of inmates incarcerated in the jails of Assam who are certified as mentally ill.
(c) Appropriate direction shall not be issued directing the Morigaon District authorities to immediately transfer the mentally ill inmates to an appropriate mental asylum and ensure their proper treatment.
(d) Appropriate direction shall not be issued directing all District and Central Prisons of the State to unscrupulously follow the law with regard to mentally ill inmates and also the directions issued by this court from time to time.
And on cause(s) being shown, if any, perusal of the records and on hearing the parties may be pleased to make the Rule absolute and/or may be pleased to pass such further or other order(s) as to Your Lordships may seem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.”
The petitioners ventilated the grievance that the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1987 as well as the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 have neither been implemented nor have been followed in the State of Assam, particularly in the Morigaon District Jail, and the mentally ill inmates are kept with the general stream of the jail inmates. On this predominant premises the petition is filed wherein the petitioners have also given certain examples of non-implementation of the provisions of the aforesaid Acts. The petitioners have also brought on record, in detail, the discrepancies found in implementation of the aforesaid Acts. The petitioners have relied upon a consolidated report on the Correction Homes in Assam and have pointed out the discrepancies therein.
Various orders have been passed by the High Court in the present proceedings from time to time and, ultimately, the State Government authorities have made an endeavour to implement the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1987 as well as the Mental Health Care Act, 2017. The Court from the record that the District Legal Services Authorities of different districts in Assam are also made aware about the same.
The State authorities, by an Additional Affidavit dated 08.07.2022 have brought on record the fact that the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1987 and the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 are being implemented and, vide Notification dated 27th June, 2022, Mental Health Review Boards have been constituted under the Chairmanship of the respective District & Sessions Judges of Barpeta, Kamrup(M), Cachar, Dibrugarh and Sonitpur districts. The Court noted that the State authorities have proceeded to nominate other members of the Mental Health Review Boards and also to constitute committees in this regard.
D. Saikia, Advocate General, Assam, has submitted that the functioning of these Mental Health Review Boards and the committees require earmarked budget, which is under active consideration of the State Government and the same shall be placed before the State Cabinet for its final approval as expeditiously as possible. Advocate General has also apprised the Court about the fact that the provisions of the aforesaid Acts shall be implemented in toto and the Court may grant some reasonable time to see that the Mental Health Review Boards and the committees start functioning effectively for implementation of the provisions of the Acts.
V. Rajkhowa, counsel for the petitioners has submitted that the Mental Health Review Boards and the committees should start functioning as early as possible and in order to ensure effective functioning of these Mental Health Review Boards and the committees, directions be issued to the respective Chairmen of the Boards to submit reports to the High Court from time to time.
Having considered the submissions of the counsel for the parties and having gone through the affidavits on record and, more particularly, the additional affidavit dated 08.07.2022, it becomes clear to the Court that the State Government has actively and effectively made attempts to implement the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1987 as well as the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 and have already constituted Mental Health Review Boards and Committees. From the Notification dated 30.10.2022, the Court observed that the respective committees have also been asked to formulate rules for effective implementation of the provisions of the aforesaid Acts. The Court have been given to understand that State Rules have also been framed in this regard.
In light of the aforesaid development and considering the prayers made in this PIL, the High Court granted respondent authorities time till 31.03.2023 to complete the process and also to allot necessary budgetary provisions for the same so that the Mental Health Review Boards and Committees start functioning effectively from 01.04.2023. It is further provided that each District Mental Health Review Board shall submit its report to the High Court through the Chairman of Juvenile Justice Committee and, if any discrepancy is found, the same shall be brought to the notice of the respective Boards for effective implementation of the provisions of the Acts , the Bench directed.
In the light of the aforesaid, the Court clarified that prayers made in this PIL are not necessary to be dealt with separately as the provisions of the said Acts are now to be implemented in its true letter and spirit and the petitioners are also at liberty to point out the discrepancy, if any, to the respective Mental Health Review Board as and when such discrepancy is noticed by the petitioners.