Individuals with mental illness have right to live like any other person: Justice Sikri

New Delhi: Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri on Saturday asserted the need for mentally ill people to be treated at par with other individuals.

Addressing a gathering at a seminar for Homeless and Other Unreached Persons with Mental Illnesses (PMIs), he said, “This is happening in 2019 where we are talking about the legal rights of the mentally ill persons. It is no more a health issue alone now. It is an issue of their human rights also as they are not getting a suitable environment which they need. They have the right to live like any other person.”

Justice Sikri’s statement comes two days after a petition was filed by a Delhi-based lawyer in Supreme Court in which he had sought the top court’s intervention in an incident wherein people with psychological disorders were shackled like cattle, with their feet tied with iron chains and padlocked for days, months and years- this is the sight at a dirty shed in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun where men and women, young and old, suffering from mental illnesses are kept and abused.

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The lawyer in his petition had sought the enforcement and protection of civil, political and fundamental rights of an underprivileged and deprived section of society

The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice A K Sikri on January 3 directed Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath led BJP government to take requisite actions in order to provide mental healthcare and treatment at the earliest.

“It is a matter of serious concern and is against the provision of rights of a person under Article 21 of the Constitution. The dignity of such persons can’t be compromised,” said the bench.

According to Article 21, every person with mental illness shall not only have a right to live with dignity but shall be protected from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

In India, the World Health Organisation estimates 2,443 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) per 100,000 population are lost a year, while the age-adjusted suicide rate per 100,000 population is 21.1. The economic loss due to mental health conditions in India has been pegged at 1.03 trillion of 2019 US dollars for the period 2012-2030.

Mental health workforce in India (per 100,000 population) include psychiatrists (0.3), nurses (0.12), psychologists (0.07) and social workers (0.07). On a closer look, along with India, another country-Indonesia too is struggling to end human shackling.

In 2016, Human Rights Watch exposed shackling of as many as 18,000 psychosocially disable people. The administration has taken a vow to curb such menace by raising awareness and providing medical health services to the needy. However, at present, more than 12,800 people are still shackled-to beds, cement blocks, or in animal pens.


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