Former Supreme Court judge K.T. Thomas has stressed the need for advancement in psychiatry for effective justice dispensation.

He was inaugurating the Mid-term Continuing Medical Education (CME) of the Kerala State Branch of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) here on Sunday.

Justice Thomas said that the expertise gained in the field of psychiatry has become indispensable for the functioning of the judiciary. “The legal profession has always been related with the mental health branch of the medical profession. When I became a judge, there was only Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code that pertained to distinguishing whether an accused had medical insanity or legal insanity. At present, the IPC contains two more amendments, those pertaining to dowry death and abetment of suicide.”

Elaborating on the legislation he said, “If a woman dies in abnormal circumstances and within 7 years of marriage, and the evidence shows the presence of the demand for dowry, then the law says that the Court shall pursue that the person had died because of the harassment caused by the demand for dowry. It is a difficult area for the judiciary to decide whether the person suffered from any sort of mental illness. Similarly, section 306 (that pertains to abetment of suicide) has become one of the most dreaded provisions in the Indian Penal Code.”

Justice Thomas called for a new method that would assist the judiciary in detecting the actual cause of death in such cases and determining whether it was caused by any mental health problem or whether it was a case of homicide. “It has to be ascertained whether harassment alone had resulted in suicide, or whether it had been caused by delusion, paranoid delusion or schizophrenia of any type. My experience in the legal profession has shown me that some form of mental delusion is the immediate cause of nearly 90 per cent of suicides occurring in the country,” he said.

He also said that the significant advancement achieved in psychiatry has resulted in a scenario, unlike in the past, in which persons suffering from mental illness are no longer victims of social ostracism.

In his special address, IPS National president Roy Abraham Kallivayalil said that although the Indian Psychiatric Society has regarded the proposed Mental Health Care Bill as progressive, the society has expressed concern over the inclusion of general hospitals in the country under the purview of the proposed law.

Kottayam Government Medical College principal A. Mehrunnisa released a souvenir in connection with the programme. IPS South Zone president-elect K.S. Shaji, State vice-president and organising chairman of the programme V. Satheesh, general secretary Varghese P. Punnoose, Central Travancore Psychiatric Society president Biji Paul George, and organising secretary Bobby Thomas also spoke on the occasion.

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