Challenges under the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, By Kartikeya Hundet, At LexCliq

The difficulty in MHA, 1987 to govern and save guard the rights of mentally ill people in India laid the foundation for the new legislation. The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 provides rights for affordable medical treatment, good quality healthcare services, and easy access to mental health facilities on a minimal amount to poor people. However, to implement these reforms there are lots of challenges and a lack of infrastructure in the country. This new act changed the provision of IPC[1] which criminalize the attempt to commit suicide by people as a punishable offence[2]. The activists say that a person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness and going through mental stress thus it shall not be punishable under the Indian Penal Code.

The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 has introduced some of the positive provision which made this act more effective and progressive than its predecessors like Indian Lunacy Act, 1912 and The Menta Health Act, 1987. The new concept in the act like the mental health capacity and an advance directive is ambiguous and unclearly defined. The mental health professional has more duty and responsibility toward the patient by ensuring his right given under this act[1]. The Act should also take into account various research, and clarify the confusion regarding Section 3 which says that mental illness should be understood via the internationally recognized standards, instantly. As it causes lots of uncertainly and ill-defined under the act.

The concept of the Advance directive is one of the most controversial provisions in this act. The person with mental illness under the advance directive has the right to a decided certain aspect of his treatment in mental health care and the health profession has to fulfil his directive during the course of treatment. However, the country like India where the people even today does not know about the mental health problem and mental disorder, there is still lack of awareness about mental illness in society and even the health professional are not well trained in ruler area of the country where most of the population reside. When a mentally ill person suffering from a serious psychological disorder often lacks the ability to decide a sound judgment how can that person able to decide which treatment benefit him or not. So, to clear this doubt the decision from a professional health person which has knowledge about the mental illness can be considered on behalf of the patient.

This act also highlights certain rights given to mentally ill person such as the right to community living; right to personal contact and communication; right to access mental health should be given to every person by the government; rights to free legal aid; right to information; right to confidential and other right given under chapter V of this act, As all these rights has been guarantee by the government to the person with mental illness. But in reality, to implicate these rights requires a huge amount of financial budget allocation by the government. It is also unclear how the allocation of the fund will happen between the state and central authority. The mental hospitals in India are having substandard infrastructures and many of them don’t even offer basic amenities and services for people with mental illness. Therefore, it becomes a difficult task to provides these rights to mentally ill persons in a county like India which have the 2nd largest population on the planet.                

[1] Section 309. Attempt to commit suicide

[2] Chapter XVI: Miscellaneous, Section 115. Mental Healthcare Act. 2017  

[1] Chapter V: Rights of a person with mental illness. Mental Healthcare Act. 2017.

https://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Mental%20Health/Mental%20Healthcare%20Act,%202017.pdf

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