A 'dargah' in Uttar Pradesh that chained mentally-ill people happened to be a faith-based mental asylum. 17 mentally-ill people who were chained in the faith-based mental asylum have been released, the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Monday.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer were told by Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta that the authorities have taken cognisance of the matter and a team was constituted which went to the asylum in Budaun district of Uttar Pradesh.
"It is not a mental asylum. It appears to be a 'dargah'. There seems to be a belief that persons who are possessed can be cured by keeping them there. Persons are chained there so that they do not run away. There were 17 chained persons and they all have been released and are now with their families," he told the bench.
The top court was hearing public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal who has said that persons with mental illness were chained in a faith-based mental asylum in Budaun in violation of the provisions of the Mental Health Care Act 2017.
During the hearing, Mehta said authorities have asked a woman, who claims that she could cure such patients, not to do such activities and hoarding has also been placed there that no such type of curing takes place.
He said family members of such patients had themselves brought them to that place.
"It is not the people taken there, but the people who take them there are mentally ill," the bench observed and asked, "Is such practice prevalent across the country?.
To this, Mehta responded, "Yes, all over the country and across religion."
The bench said even if a person was suffering from mental illness, there was a process to cure them.
"All of us are temporary abled. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow," Justice Sikri observed.
In a lighter vein, the SG said in America, it is believed that every fourth person is under some psychiatric help.
Bansal told the apex court that issue regarding non-implementation of provisions of the Mental Health Care Act 2017 by states and Union Territories (UTs) should be dealt with by the bench.
The court issued notices to all the states and UTs seeking their replies on the plea which has said that chaining a person suffering from mental illness was a blatant violation of a provision of the 2017 Act, which says that every such person will not only have a right to live with dignity but he or she will be protected from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The court has posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
The top court had last week said chaining of mentally ill people cannot be allowed and had termed as "atrocious" and "inhuman" such conduct in a faith-based mental asylum in Uttar Pradesh.
The court had said that chaining people with mental illness was violative of their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution, which deals with life and personal liberty, and their dignity cannot be compromised.
In his PIL, the petitioner has referred to the National Mental Health Survey 2016 and claimed that around 14 percent of India's population requires active mental health interventions and around two percent Indians were suffering from severe mental disorders.
He has also sought a direction to all the states and UTs to start a programme to provide mental health care and treatment to persons with mental illness placed near or inside faith-based mental asylums.
Besides these, the PIL has sought direction to states and UTs to establish state mental health authority as also a fund as per the provisions of the Act.