Staff Reporter

MADURAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Ramanathapuram Collector to depute a Revenue Divisional Officer to inspect and file a report on alleged ill-treatment meted out to mentally challenged persons abandoned at the Erwadi dharga in the district.

Passing interim orders on a public interest litigation petition filed before the Madurai Bench, a Division Bench, comprising Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice S. Palanivelu, ordered that the report should reach the court on or before December 6 and posted the matter thereafter.

In his affidavit, V. Shahul Riyas of Erwadi said he was president of the Haqdar Youth Progress Federation established for maintaining cleanliness in and around the dharga visited by thousands of devotees with the hope of curing their relatives affected with mental illness. There were a number of private asylums/curing centres around the dharga to heal mental sickness. But most of them were closed down following the death of 28 persons in a major fire accident in one of the asylums on August 6, 2001. Since then, the mentally ill persons abandoned by their family members were chained to lamp posts and trees and living in a pitiable condition, the petitioner said.

Specific representations

His counsel, V. Sitharanjandas, produced photographs of the victims and claimed some of them were brutally beaten up by the police as well as the commuters. Neither the district administration nor the Dharga Haqdar Management Committee initiated action despite preferring specific representations on the issue, he alleged.