The Lok Sabha on 27 March 2017 passed the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016. It will replace the Mental Health Act, 1987.
The Bill recognises the rights of mentally ill people to affordable treatment and also seeks to decriminalise suicide.
The Rajya Sabha already passed the Bill in August 2016.
The Bill describes mental illness as “a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs.”
Key highlights of the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016
• One of the most important features of the Bill is that a person attempting suicide shall be presumed, though rebuttable, to be suffering from severe stress, and hence, exempt from trial and punishment.
• The Bill adopts a more nuanced understanding of “mental illness” than the Act of 1987. However, the Bill varies from the social model of disability incorporated in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. India had signed the Convention on 1 October 2007.
• Also, the Bill adopts a narrow approach to see mental illness as hampering recognition of reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life.
• It also adopts a radically different approach empowering the individual to make decisions concerning his/her mental healthcare or treatment. This is in line with the objective of the Convention.
• It also provides every person, except a minor, with a right to make an Advance Directive specifying the way the person wishes to be cared for and treated for a mental illness.
• It creates a rights-based framework for mentally ill persons. Its Chapter V operates as a charter of rights for persons with mental illness consolidating and safeguarding the basic human rights of these individuals.
• It completely prohibits Electro-compulsive therapy as a measure of emergency treatment for these individuals.