The centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that 17 people believed to be mentally ill, who were chained in a “dargah” in Uttar Pradesh, have been released.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer was told by Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta that the authorities have taken cognisance of the matter and a team was constituted which went to the asylum in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh.
“It is not a mental asylum. It appears to be a ”dargah”. There seems to be a belief that persons who are possessed can be cured by keeping them there. Persons are chained there so that they do not run away. There were 17 chained persons and they all have been released and are now with their families,” he told the bench.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal who has said that persons with mental illness were chained in a “dargah” in Badaun in violation of the provisions of the Mental Health Care Act 2017.
During the hearing, Mr Mehta said authorities had asked a woman, who claims that she could cure such patients, not to do such activities and a hoarding has also been put there that no such type of curing takes place.
He said family members of such patients had themselves brought them to that place.
“It is not the people taken there, but the people who take them there are mentally ill,” the bench observed and asked, “Is such practice prevalent across the country?.
To this, Mr Mehta responded, “Yes, all over the country and across religion.”
The bench said even if a person was suffering from mental illness, there was a process to cure them.
“All of us are temporary-abled. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow,” Justice Sikri observed.
The Solicitor General said in the US, it is believed that every fourth person is under some psychiatric help.
Mr Bansal told the top court that issue regarding non-implementation of provisions of the Mental Health Care Act 2017 by states and Union Territories (UTs) should be dealt with by the bench.
The court issued notices to all the states and Union Territories seeking their replies on the plea which has said that chaining a person suffering from mental illness was a blatant violation of a provision of the 2017 Act, which says that every such person will not only have a right to live with dignity but he or she will be protected from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The court has posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
The top court had last week said chaining of mentally ill people cannot be allowed and had termed as “atrocious” and “inhuman” such conduct in a faith-based mental asylum in Uttar Pradesh.
The court had said that chaining people with mental illness was violative of their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution, which deals with life and personal liberty, and their dignity cannot be compromised.
In his plea, the petitioner has referred to the National Mental Health Survey 2016 and claimed that around 14 per cent of India’s population requires active mental health interventions and around two per cent Indians were suffering from severe mental disorders.
He has also sought a direction to all the states and Union Territories to start a programme to provide mental health care and treatment to persons with mental illness placed near or inside faith-based mental asylums.
Besides these, the plea has sought direction to states and Union Territories to establish state mental health authority as also a fund as per the provisions of the Act.