Courts Update Supreme Court directs all states to ensure vaccination of...

Supreme Court directs all states to ensure vaccination of mentally-ill persons within 1 month

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New Delhi Sept 1(ILNS): The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed all states of the country to ensure vaccination of mentally ill persons within one month.

A three-judge Bench comprised of Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Vikram Nath, and Justice Hima Kohli while hearing a contempt petition and other applications filed by Petitioner-in-person Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal pointing to the death of three inmates at a Maharashtra Mental health facility and the urgent need of vaccinating the inmates. The contempt plea was filed in the backdrop of noncompliance of directions of the apex court in the matter of setting up rehabilitation homes for persons living with mental illness (who have been cured, or who do not need further hospitalization, or who are homeless or are not accepted by their families).

The Court has observed today that the guidelines issued by union has in no way made any genuine progress with regards to the setting up of halfway homes for those cured of mental illness as indicated by the State government and directed the Union Government to monitor the progress and apprise the court periodically. 

The bench, today, heard the matter after a prolonged period since the hearing was deferred earlier on account of a meeting between the Union Government with the social welfare department of all the States and UTs  on 12th of July. 

Pursuant to this meeting the department of empowerment of persons with disability, union ministry of social justice and empowerment has placed a status report before the court today; it was mentioned in the report that the Ministry of health and family welfare directed all the states to ensure vaccination of mentally ill persons on priority basis. Perusing the report the bench directed that, 

“In order to ensure these directions are complied with, all States and Union Territories should perform the task in a time bound schedule for facilitating the vaccination for persons lodged in mental care institutions from one month from date of this order.”

The bench also directed that the progress report shall be filed by every state/ UT with the department of social justice and empowerment of union ministry of social justice and empowerment on expiry or before 15.10.2021 explaining the steps taken, i.e. Number of persons vaccinated in mental health care institutions and vaccination of inmates must also be coupled with vaccination of all service providers and other staff associated with these institutions.

Furthermore, the bench while observing that establishment of halfway homes must be taken expeditiously and mere re-designation of other institution as halfway home would not serve the purpose has directed the Union Government to set up an online dashboard to monitor the progress with respect to the rehabilitation of halfway homes, the same would depict- Availability of institutions, facility provided, Capacity, Occupancy, Region wise distribution of halfway homes over online dashboard by each states so that Union can take the same in account within a period of 4 weeks. It was also stated that this data shall be updated on a real time basis so that all information required to be made should be available in a seamless manner.

The bench while directing the above observed that both Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh Government rather than establishing halfway homes, they are re-designating the old age/ beggar homes as halfway homes which is not according to the earlier directions of the Supreme Court and doesn’t amount to valid discharge of duties. Furthermore the Maharashtra Government has already shifted the patients recovered from mental illness or overstayed at mental institutions to beggar/ old age homes instead of hallway homes. The bench observed that the meeting at which the monitoring committee was constituted, a decision was taken to relocate persons who are cured of mental illness within 3 months after identifying and contacting NGO in mental services. The bench then directed that until the above exercise is completed the public health department will provide facilities both in terms of medical care, and counselling. 

The bench also observed that, “the modalities adopted by State of Maharashtra simply putting the patients to beggar home (who overstayed) would not amount to direction of this court” and directed the process be taken to logical conclusion by on or before 30.11.2021.

The bench further directed that the entire exercise of halfway and mental homes shall be completed within 6 months. 

The bench, for the meantime, directed the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to hold a meeting at least once a month to foresee the progress made for setting up halfway homes for persons cured with mental Illness. 

Thereafter, the bench heard Advocate Petitioner-in-Person  Gaurav Kumar Bansal on an IA filed by him regarding treatment of women within these institutions, He stated before the court that a research was conducted in 2016 by National Institute for Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) at the request of National Women Commission which depicts the pathetic living conditions of women institutionalized in Mental Institutions, to be elaborate these mental institutions are still engaged in tonsuring hair of women institutionalized in hospitals, no availability of sanitary napkins, no provision to ensure that child and mother are not separated in Mental Health Establishments, no provision of aadhar card. 

The bench observed that the issues mentioned in the application are of serious concern and directed the ministry of social justice and empowerment to specifically raise these issues with States and Union Territories in course of monthly monitoring as directed and the same be filed in a compliance report along with status report in the main case.

This Petition was filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal to issue guidelines for the states for setting up Rehabilitation homes for persons with mental illness (who have been cured, or who do not need further hospitalization, or who are homeless or are not accepted by their families), during the pendency of this case the department of empowerment of persons with disability (union ministry of social justice and empowerment) issued several guidelines. Thereafter, the apex court on July 10 2017 ordered the States and UTs to implement the said guidelines within one year. Since the directions were not complied with, a contempt petition was filed by Mr. Bansal along with other applications. /ILNS/A/KR/SNG

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