This article on ‘Laws related to Mental Health in India: All you need to know’ was written by Madiha Khan, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
A vast spectrum of regulatory issues is covered by mental health laws and applies to both those who have or may develop a psychiatric disorder as well as those who manage, diagnose or cure such individuals. Understanding mental well-being and the reasons for legal provisions relating to mental healthcare are necessary to comprehend mental health laws. Mental health is made up of our emotions, mental stability, and sociological welfare. Also, it controls the way we react to pressure, and those around us, as well as the ability to make good decisions.
Mental health is vital for every human being throughout their life. Mental health also includes people with mental disabilities including the care that they need. Mental health laws deal with any person suffering from any disorder or disability of mind and who needs treatment. In India, the term PMI is used for this purpose; it means persons with mental illness/disorder. The institution of asylums for the care of PMI was introduced in 1800 after the British took over the Indian administration.
Laws for PMI (Stigma experienced by people with mental illness)
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that only legal means authorized by law may be used to take away someone’s daily life or individual freedom. An individual who is suffering from unsoundness of mind and has been so determined by a court of competent jurisdiction is ineligible for registering in an electorate, as per Section 16 of the voting rights Act that was passed in the year 1950. As a result, the candidate is unqualified to occupy any constitutionally recognised governmental position, including that of the House of Representatives or Legislature.
When someone lacks the capacity to behave lawfully and needs care or someone else to make decisions for his or her welfare, the mental health laws are frequently utilized in case of psychological diseases like Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia as well as physical disorders. The statutes typically cover the criteria and protocols required in a mental health institution or other establishments. There are numerous laws pertaining to psychological health issues in India:-
- The Mental Health Act, 1987 – The purpose of this Act is to adequately provide for psychologically ill people’s property and affairs, as well as matters related to it, by consolidating and amending the laws pertaining to the treatment and care of those individuals. In other words, the Act creates measures for psychological care and support for those who have mental illnesses as well as to advance and uphold these individuals’ freedom while providing such treatment and assistance.
- The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 – A law to establish various nationwide human rights institutions to effectively safeguard basic rights. Additionally, it supports the initiatives of agencies and NGOs that are working for the said cause.
- Persons with Disability Act, 1995 – According to this law, disabled individuals are entitled to the same rights as other people and the government is responsible for facilitating their complete involvement in the community. The government is required to provide costless schooling and incorporate special needs students into regular classrooms.
- The National Trust Act, 1999 – The National Trust was established under the “National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities” Act and is an official entity of the Social Justice Ministry and Empowerment, of India. It was established to carry out two fundamental responsibilities: legal and welfare. Local Level Committees (LLC) and the provision of legal guardianship are used to carry out legal obligations, and with the help of various Programs, welfare obligations are met.
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 – Sec.3 of this Act states that any type of behaviour or conduct by the respondent that jeopardizes the victimized individual’s safety, life, body part, or wellbeing, whether mentally or physically, or by inflicting assault, physical molestation, abusive language, mental abuse, or financial abuse; or terrorises the injured party in order to force her or any individual related to her, to fulfill the unethical demands for dowry or other valuables; or cause injury, either physically or mentally to the victim.
- Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 – Part 5 of this Act makes provisions for mental healthcare to take care of the child’s mental health needs, who has suffered from abuse.
- Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 – by replacing the Act of 1987, the MHA, 2017 was passed. As the old Act put stress on the institutionalisation of mentally ill people over the protection of their rights. Additionally, the 1987 Act mandated cumbersome and rigid license criteria for psychotherapists. The Act also establishes that the patient has the option to choose from a variety of mental healthcare facilities. A PMI has a right to reimbursement from the state if these services are not offered. The law guarantees a number of rights, including social inclusion, privacy, demand for health data, the right to be protected from harsh or inhumane treatment, and the prohibition of discrimination. All indigent and vagrant PMI are eligible for no-cost mental health therapy, however, it does not differentiate between PMI based on economic stability.
Nothing can be made an offense that is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, due to mental incapacity, is unable to know the severity or the actions done by them are considered wrong or conflicting to the law, according to the IPC. Sec 84 specifies the extent of the responsibility of a mentally ill person in criminal matters. The SC has ordered that a defense based on lunacy must be supported by evidence since the law presumes everyone who is of legal age to be sound.
According to Sec. 471(i) of the Criminal procedure code, if the defense is based on the claim of insanity, such individuals are sent to mental institutions. Because of a psychiatric condition, sentences have occasionally been reduced. Due to a family dispute, a mother (accused) jumped into a well with her offspring; it was held that the sentence will be the reduced sentence of life imprisonment. An action that is done for the welfare of an individual who lacks capacity by the guardian or another person with legal custody of that individual is sheltered by Section 89 of the IPC.
To conclude, there must be adequate monetary help and enhancement of highly qualified specialists who are resourceful and have abilities in the mental health field. According to Article 21, people who are ill have a right to privacy and dignity that derives from their right to life. The confidentiality and dignity of people who are mentally ill while they are ill must always be upheld and guaranteed by the legal support institutions.
More than 50 million Indians struggle with depression, and millions suffer from anxiety on daily basis. Our country has the highest frequency of mental diseases around the world. Nearly 20% of Indians, according to the National Mental Health Survey of 2021, require mental health care. It is required to be highlighted that the well-being of the PMI and the community as a whole ought to be the true aim of any law sanctioned.
- Published By Authority Of New Delhi, May 22, 1987, Ministry Of Law And Justice (Legislative Department) New Delhi, the 22nd May 1987, at: https://www.wbhealth.gov.in/mental_health/Acts_Rules/MHA_1987.pdf
- Sahil Sood, Mental Healthcare Act: A Legislation for the People, 06 August 2020, at: https://www.mondaq.com/india/healthcare/972410/mental-healthcare-act-a-legislation-for-the-people
- Choudhary Laxmi Narayan and Deep Shikha, Indian J Psychiatry. 2013 Jan, Indian legal system and mental health, at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705679/
- Gyarsibai W/O Jagannath vs The State AIR 1953 MB 61