Government moves Mental Healthcare Bill to decriminalise suicides 

The Bill had already been passed by the Rajya Sabha last year.

Published: 24th March 2017 08:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th March 2017 12:20 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The government on Friday introduced “The Mental Healthcare Bill” in the Lok Sabha, which seeks to decriminalise suicides, besides giving the right of choice for the kind of treatments to patients along with thrust on involvement of community in the therapy process. The Bill had already been passed by the Rajya Sabha last year.

While the government claims that one per cent of India’s population have mental illnesses, which predispose them for suicidal tendencies, the legislative proposal has proposed that such people should not face criminal charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Taking part in the discussion, the BJP MP Heena Gavit, who is a doctor by profession, said during the discussion that people have attempted suicides but survived have been avoiding treatment for mental illness for fear of police action. “The Bill is a welcome step, as it will allow a large number of people to avail treatment without fear,” she said.

Introducing the Bill, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda said that the thrust is on empowering the patients in the choice of treatments, besides ensuring that none is discriminated against. While lauding the legislative proposal, the Congress MP Shashi Tharoor called upon the government to include the mental patients already undergoing treatment under the ambit of the new law. “I have come across cases where people have been forced into mental asylum even while they had no ailments. The government should notify a specific date from which the law will come into force and should also address the concerns of those are already undergoing the treatment,” said Tharoor.

The bill also defines mental illness, stating that an ailment which affects the mental conditions in taking judgments barring the cases of mental retardation, would be considered mental illness. The bill also proposes that a person can give an advance directive for the kinds of treatment he would avail of in the event he suffered from mental illness, besides nominating someone to take decision on his behalf. It also proposes that the electro-convulsive therapy would be administered only with anaesthesia.

The bill also mandates the police to take the mental patients roaming around in their jurisdictions to the mental health care facilities and ensure treatment for them. The bill also mandates that violation of the norms will invite jail terms for the medical practioners.

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