Supreme Court: Measures should be taken to protect rights of women in government-run mental healthcare institutions

A research conducted by NIMHANS, in 2016, and the National Commission of Women, in 2020, highlighted the deprivations suffered by hundreds of mentally-ill women in government run mental healthcare institutions.

The research highlighted the following:

  1. Women were denied sanitary napkins.
  2. Mothers were not allowed to keep their children. There were no separate mother-child wards in many of the government-run institutions.
  3. They were denied their right to privacy and their hair was shorn off.
  4. The authorities did not arrange any identity documents like Aadhaar.
  5. They were neither given disability certificates nor cleared for disability pension.

The plight of the women and the existence of these studies were brought to the attention of the court by Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal in an application.

The research and applications were presented to a Bench consisting of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Hima Kohli.

The Bench looked into the matter and acknowledged that the ill-treatment of women indicates gross violation of the Mental Healthcare Act and Constitutional privileges such as dignity and privacy.

The Bench passed an order and directed the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and State Governments/ Union Territories to take measures and ‘alleviate’ the violation of human rights suffered by women in these institutions, within 3 months.

The Bench further directed the Ministry to take up the issues in the monthly meetings, held between the Centre and the State governments to monitor the progress in the establishment of half-way homes for cured mentally-ill persons who needed a place to stay.

It also directed the Centre to create an online dashboard for States to individually provide real-time data on half-way homes, facilities provided, capacity, occupancy and their region-wise distribution.
The States have to update the data within four weeks of the creation of the online dashboard by the Centre.

The Court has scheduled the case to be heard on December 14th.

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