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The Laws and Rights of Mentally Challenged Individuals in India
  19 Jul'2018

Humans have asserted themselves to be the most intelligent species to have ever walked on planet Earth. The human brain is such that until today medical science has not been able to explain it in entirety. For instance, we still don’t know how memories are actually stored. It is because of this brain that humans have made significant discoveries and lived the best life for themselves, but sometimes there occurs a disorder in it which we colloquially refer to as madness or insanity.

 

What is Mental Illness? Who is mentally Ill?

 

The Indian Mental Health Act, 1987 defines mentally ill person as ‘a person who needs treatment for mental disorder.”

As we see by the definitions ‘mental illness’, the most drastic consequence seems to be that it disables a person to function as a normal human being. These people need treatment which should consist of care and love, but most often they are ill-treated by the larger society. They are considered as unproductive and useless, often thrown out of their houses. Narayan Seva Sansthan is the best NGO for the Disabled that caters different types of disabilities in the form of Schools for the Mentally Retarded which include special facilities with the basic necessities. But its not enough, the rights provided to such people should be known to all so that places like Schools for Orphans can benefit from the law.

 

It thus becomes important for us to know, what are the rights available to mentally challenged people in India!?

 

Constitutional Rights:

 

Mentally and Physically challenged people can avail all the fundamental rights guaranteed to an ordinary citizen by the constitution of India. NO statue bars them from enjoying these rights. However for mentally challenged the most important rights are:

 

Right against Discrimination:

 

By Article, 15(2) of constitution of India any citizen, including mentally challenged people, can’t be denied access to public goods. Also, they need to be provided equal opportunities to prosper in life.

 

Right to Health:

 

 Article 21 gives the right to life and personal liberty. Right to health flows directly from right to life and the same has been laid down by the Supreme Court in many cases.

 

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act 1995

The need to provide equal opportunities and enhance participation of mentally challenged in the society was the first time realized through this act. Few landmark steps were taken in this regard were:

  • Establishment of special schools for the education of mentally disabled children.
  • Mentally disabled children were given the right to free education till the age of 18 under this Act.
  • 3% employment reservation for disabled (Including mentally disabled) in government jobs was approved.

 

Current issues faced mentally disabled in India:

 

Lack of Asylums :

India, though being a signatory to various conventions and treaties, still requires an adequate number of mental health care asylums in the country. Ideally, there should be one asylum in every district.

 

Poor infrastructure:

 

Most of the functioning asylums in the country are below standard. Lack of facilities in addition to staff and doctors exacerbates the situation of mentally challenged.

 

Lack of awareness:

 

For any right to deliver on substantive goals there needs to be awareness of it. A majority of the country is today unaware of the rights of mentally challenged.

 

Current laws:

 

Most of the current laws in the country induce incompetency in the mentally challenged people. They can’t enter into a contract, nor can validly marry. These things need to be reformed.

 

Lack of any comprehensive legislation:

 

Lack of legislation granting rights to mentally disabled is another major issue to be tackled. The legislature should take an initiative in this regard.

 

Mentally disabled people are as much the part of the society as anyone else. Despite the existence of laws and precedents granting certain rights to them, there is felt a need for reform in this regard. This issue is not a politically charged one and so has not gained the attention it deserved. Moreover just by putting blame on regime won’t work, After all, it is us who have to come forward and help these people to get their rights.

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