The Parliament has passed the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016 that decriminalises suicide attempt by mentally ill people and guarantees the right to better healthcare for people with mental illness.
It was first passed in Rajya Sabha in August 2016 and later in Lok Sabha in March 2017. Now it will go to president for assent.
Key Features of Bill
- Rights of persons with mental illness: It gives every person right to access mental healthcare from services operated or funded by the government. It also includes good quality, easy and affordable access to services.
- It also provides right to equality of treatment, protect such persons from inhuman treatment, access to free legal services, medical records and right to complain in case of deficiencies in provisions.
- Advance Directive: It empowers a mentally-ill person to have the right to make an advance directive that explains how they want to be treated for the requisite illness and nominate their representative.
- Mental Health Establishments: Every mental health establishment must register with the respective Central or State Mental Health Authority. For registration, the concerned establishment must fulfill different criteria as mentioned in the Bill.
- Procedure and process: It also outlines the procedure and process for admission, treatment and subsequent discharge of mentally ill persons.
- Community based treatment: It focuses on community based treatment and special provisions for women and health.
- Mental Health Review Commission and Board: It will be quasi-judicial body responsible for reviewing procedure for making advance directives.
- It will advise the government on the protection of rights of mentally ill persons’. It will constitute Mental Health Review Boards in states’ districts will help of state governments.
- Decriminalising suicide: It effectively decriminalises suicide attempt under the section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) by mentally ill persons by making it non-punishable
- Prohibits electro-convulsive therapy: It will be not used for minors. It will be allowed only with the use of anaesthesia.
The Bill is the first mental health law framed as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which India is signatory. It requires the countries to align their laws with the Convention. The Bill provides “rights-based” approach to mental illness by consolidating and safeguarding the rights of fundamental human rights of the patients. In India, around 6 to 7% of the population suffers from some kind of mental illnesses, while 1 to 2% suffers from acute mental disease.