RS passes Bill decriminalising suicide

A Bill which seeks to decriminalise suicide and provide better healthcare for people with mental illness was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, says that any person who attempts suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have mental illness and shall not be liable to punishment under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

Now, a person who attempts suicide is charged under the section.

‘Progressive legislation’

Replying to a debate on the legislation, Health Minister J. P. Nadda termed it “humane and progressive”, and said its focus was to provide better support and facilities to people with various kinds of mental illnesses.

“This is a historic and progressive Bill. It has been a long standing effort. It is patient-centric and focusses on how more facilities and support could be provided to the patients,” Mr. Nadda said.

He said 6-7 per cent of the country’s population had some kind of mental illnesses, while 1-2 per cent had acute mental disease.

He admitted that there was a shortage of medical staff dealing with mental health in the country, and said the government was trying hard to deploy more such specialists.

Special provisions

Various stakeholders, including academics and experts, and the political establishment were consulted while formulating the Bill, Mr. Nadda said. “The Bill focusses on community-based treatment. Special provisions for women's health have also been provided for in the Bill.”

Members across the political spectrum, however, sought urgent steps to address the lack of infrastructure and a shortage of psychiatrists in the country.

The Bill also provides for the protection and promotion of the rights of persons with mental illness during the delivery of healthcare in institutions and in the community.

The Bill was passed unanimously through voice vote. There were 134 official amendments to the Bill, which took almost an hour to be passed.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 5:48:20 PM |

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