The article explains the major features of the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013.
- The term “mental health” encompasses a wide variety of conditions, issues and contexts. While illness represents individual suffering, disease implies structural and functional abnormalities.
- The Statements of Objects and Reasons to the Bill, state the government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. The Convention requires the laws of the country to align with the Convention.
- The new Bill was introduced as the existing Act does not adequately protect the rights of persons with mental illness nor promote their access to mental health care.
The key features of the Bill are:
- Rights of persons with mental illness: Every person shall have the right to access mental health care and treatment from services run or funded by the government.
- The right to access mental health care includes affordable, good quality of and easy access to services.
- Persons with mental illness also have the right to equality of treatment, protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, free legal services, access to their medical records, and complain regarding deficiencies in provision of mental health care.
- Advance Directive: A mentally-ill person shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he wants to be treated for the illness during a mental health situation and who his nominated representative shall be.
Central and State Mental Health Authority: These are administrative bodies are required to:
- register, supervise and maintain a register of all mental health establishments,
- develop quality and service provision norms for such establishments,
- maintain a register of mental health professionals,
- train law enforcement officials and mental health professionals on the provisions of the Act,
- receive complaints about deficiencies in provision of services, and
- advise the government on matters relating to mental health.
- Mental Health Establishments: Every mental health establishment has to be registered with the relevant Central or State Mental Health Authority.
- Mental Health Review Commission and Board: The Mental Health Review Commission will be a quasi-judicial body that will periodically review the use of and the procedure for making advance directives and advise the government on protection of the rights of mentally ill persons.
- Decriminalising suicide and prohibiting electro-convulsive therapy: A person who attempts suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code.
- However, it has not pleased all the stakeholders. Activists argue that the bill does not comply with the UNCRPD.
- They have argued against the use of compulsory treatment for psychosocial conditions including mental illness, suggesting that such approaches are influenced by prejudice, and are a breach of the human right to equality.
- Such movements resulted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (UNCRPD). It argued that people with disability, including mental illness, have rights to seek legal opinion, liberty, and to informed consent.
- While UNCRPD’s broad structure does not explicitly ban the use of force in the treatment of the mentally ill, its logic clearly suggests prohibition of compulsion.
- The bill should be seen as a work in progress. The way it is implemented will determine its success in reducing the burden of mental illness and in supporting the human rights of people with mental illness. Periodic reviews can help plug gaps between practice and theory, and law and justice.
The Rajya Sabha recently passed the Mental Healthcare Bill. It is a major advance over the Mental Health Act, 1987. But the bill should be seen as a work in progress rather than the final destination. Comment.
- Need to bring new bill.
- Major provisions of new bill.
- Scope for improvement in new version.