Admitting a public interest litigation seeking treatment for mentally affected prisoners, the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) has sought a report from the Superintendent of Prisons in Tamil Nadu about the conditions of the convicts and trial prisoners suffering from mental disorders.
The Principal Bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice N Paul Vasantha Kumar has given two weeks time to the prison authorities to submit the report.
In his petition, N Muthukumar, deputy general secretary of Tamil Puligal, said he was arrested and confined a cell in Block No 1 in the Madurai Central Prison for participating in an agitation on June 13. During his stay in the jail, he noticed that prisoners lodged in Block 2 displayed some abnormalities. On enquiring with long-time inmates, he learnt that Block 2, was dubbed as ‘Maiyam’ (Centre) where prisoners of unsound mind were lodged.
There are 22 prisoners suffering from various psychological disorders and 13 convicts, who are insane, presently in the said block. Every day, prison authorities provide tablets to these inmates but no proper mental health treatment was given citing lack of infrastructure.
Only prisoners who were in advanced stage of mental illness were referred for treatment outside. Sometimes neurologists and psychiatrists visited them in their cells.
Petitioner’s counsel Alagumani contended that the Tamil Nadu Prison Rules, the Prisoner Act 1900 and the Mental Health Act 1987 clearly spell out how such prisoners must be treated. But this was violated grossly by the Madurai Prison authorities. In other prisons too similar conditions prevailed.
Hence he prayed for proper treatment for the mentally ill inmates.