The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in the third week of August 2013. The new bill seeks to decriminalise suicide, while at the same time, making affordable mental health care a right for everyone.
It is important to note that this is the first time in history of criminal law reforms in India that the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 offers to decriminalise acts of suicide by associating it with the state of mental health of a person who attempts suicide.
Features of the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013
• The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 was moved by the Ministry of Health.
• The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 states that the acts of suicide will not be criminalized.
• All those who attempt suicide will be considered as mentally ill until and unless proven otherwise. Therefore, people who attempt suicide will be exempted from the present provisions of Section 309 of Indian Penal Code.
• In the Section 124 of the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, it is stated that, “Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 309 of the IPC, any person who attempts suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be suffering from mental illness at the time of the bid and shall not be liable to punishment under the said Section.”
• The bill makes it clear that act of suicide as well as mental health of a person who commits suicide, are inseparably linked and so these two should be seen in unison.
• The bill lays down organised provision for treatment of people who commit suicide.
• The bill seeks to offer proper mental care for people with mental illness. It also seeks to protect, promote as well as fulfill rights of people attempting suicide, during the delivery of healthcare services related to mental health.
• It is for the first time that the Union Government of India came up with the rights based on the approach in mental health law.
• The amendment to Criminal Law would be moved separately by the Law Commission and this would eventually be affected by the Home Ministry.
• After it is passed in the Lok Sabha and assented by the President of India, it will replace the Mental Health Act of 1987.
• The new bill ensures various rights to the mentally ill people, which range from right to privacy and right to dignity.
• The bill also prohibits inhuman practices such as electro convulsive therapy without anesthesia, chaining and tonsuring of heads as well as sterilisation as a treatment for illness.
• Stringent penalties are proposed for the ones found running unregistered mental health care establishments. The fine ranges from 50000 Rupees to 5 lakh Rupees depending on the frequency of the offence.
• The bill seeks to regulate private as well as public mental healthcare sectors as well as establish a mental health system integrated into various levels of general healthcare.
• The bill provides for Advance Directive to be furnished in writing by the person, without the basis of mental illness.
• The bill also provides for registration of the Mental Board to be set up by the government at both central and state levels.
• The bill provides for Central Mental Health Authority and State Mental Health Authority together with the Mental Health Review Commission for regulating the sector and registering the institutions.
It is important to note that the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 completed the gap in mental health law in India after it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which requires it to harmonise the laws with the ones present across the world. This convention was signed on 1 October 2007 and came into force on 3 May 2008.
What was the Mental Health Act of 1987?
The aim of the Mental Health Act of 1987 is to consolidate and amend the law relating to the treatment and care of mentally ill person, to make better provisions with respect to their property and affairs and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.