HC directs State to provide appropriate accommodation, lifelong medical care to youth with mental health issues

The court observed that the State had to exercise its parens patriae jurisdiction in the case of those with mental health issues who were without family support

Updated - June 12, 2024 06:59 am IST

Published - June 11, 2024 08:38 pm IST - MADURAI

The father of the youth, a daily wager, sought a direction to the State to provide treatment to his son as an inpatient at a government health care institution.

The father of the youth, a daily wager, sought a direction to the State to provide treatment to his son as an inpatient at a government health care institution. | Photo Credit: File Photo

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has directed the State government to take into custody a 20-year-old youth, diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder, and provide him with appropriate accommodation and lifelong medical care.

The court was hearing the petition filed by the father of the youth, a daily wager, who sought a direction to the State to provide treatment to his son as an inpatient at a government health care institution.

Justice G.R. Swaminathan observed that the youth with serious mental health issues was violent at times and often beat up his parents. The petitioner wanted the State to take responsibility for the upbringing of his son. “The moot question that arises for consideration is whether the State can be saddled with liability in such cases. My answer is ‘yes’,” he observed.

The patient was admitted to the psychiatry ward of Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital on May 20, 2022, and discharged on June 6, 2022. He had current episodic mania with psychotic symptoms. The family members were unable to support him and handle his violent behaviour, the judge said.

The court observed that the State had to exercise its parens patriae jurisdiction in the case of those with mental health issues who were without family support. The State was obliged to set up residential homes for them in every district.

Non-governmental organisations were running such shelter homes. The State should support them financially so that the inmates could survive decently with requisite medical care. It was open to the NGOs to move the State for appropriate financial support and it was the duty of the State to provide them necessary budgetary allocation, it added.

The court observed that as directed by the Supreme Court, every institution meant to house those with mental health issues must have a board of visitors, comprising bureaucrats, well-known psychiatrists and social workers. The visitors must be entitled to conduct surprise inspections and interview the inmates. CCTV cameras must be installed, it added.

Referring to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, and the Central Act 44 of 1999 (The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act), the court observed that it was the duty of the Central and the State governments to ensure implementation of the policies underlying the three Acts in letter and spirit.

The arrangement would terminate the moment the patient was found fit to be discharged, the court observed.

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