PIL petition filed in Madras High Court Bench

MADURAI: A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court Bench here seeking a direction to the police to take custody of mentally challenged people abandoned on the streets and admit them in licensed psychiatric hospitals or nursing homes after obtaining necessary orders from judicial magistrates concerned.

A Division Bench comprising Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla and Justice K.B.K. Vasuki on Tuesday directed a Special Government Pleader to take notice on behalf of the Health Secretary.

They also directed the Commissioner of Police (Madurai City) to file his reply to the PIL petition by March 18.

S. Muthukumar, a lawyer and a social activist, had filed the petition stating that the Mental Health Act, 1987, had cast a duty upon police personnel to ensure safe custody of the mentally challenged. “The wanton neglect of the police officers is tantamount to abuse of the process of law and violation of human rights,” he said.

The General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation had passed a resolution on December 20, 1971, proclaiming certain declarations on rights of the mentally challenged and called for cooperation from all member-nations to support the disabled persons in exercising their right to economic security and decent standard of living.

The resolution also states that the mentally challenged should be given assistance by the State.

“As India is a signatory to the declaration of the UNO, strict observance to the proclamation by the State is quintessential. Further, in a welfare State, the primary duty of the government is to secure the welfare of the people,” the petitioner said.

Rehabilitation of the disabled persons was an integral part of Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. “The intervention of this court is most required when the pathetic condition of mentally ill persons wandering around the city is brought to its benign knowledge,” he added.

Mr. Muthukumar stated that he had made representations to the Health Secretary as well as the Commissioner of Police on December 15, 2009, seeking necessary action in this regard.

“Despite having received my representation, they abandoned it and failed to reply. They also failed to take appropriate steps,” he alleged.