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Parliament Gives It’s Approval To The Mental Healthcare Bill

The Mental Healthcare Bill 2016 decriminalizes suicide. (Image courtesy: Google)

Lok Sabha on Monday (March 27) passed the ‘Mental Healthcare Bill’ which decriminalizes suicide attempt by mentally ill people and provides services for people with mental illness.

The bill was previously passed in the Rajya Sabha in August last year with 134 official amendments.

One of the provisions of the bill is to protect and restore property right of mentally ill persons, said Union Health Minister JP Nadda in the lower house.

The bill mentions, “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.”

One of the important features of the bill is that it seeks to provide proper health-care, treatment and rehabilitation of mentally ill persons “in a manner that does not intrude on their rights and dignity.”

Highlights of Mental Healthcare Bill:

The bill ensures every person a right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the appropriate government.

It assures free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or poor, even if they do not possess a Below Poverty Line card.

It empowers a mentally-ill person to have the right to make an advance directive that explains how she/he wants to be treated for the requisite illness.

The mentally-ill person can also nominate a representative. However, the directive has to be vetted by a medical practitioner.

This bill compels the state to have a mental health programme.

The bill decriminalizes suicide, stating that a person who attempts suicide should be presumed to have severe stress, and shall not be punished.

It will be government’s duty to provide care, treatment and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of any attempt.

Every mental health establishment has to be registered with the respective Central or State Mental Health Authority.

For registration, the concerned establishment needs to fulfill different criteria as mentioned in the Bill.

Mental Health Review Commission and Board, a quasi-judicial body, to be responsible for reviewing procedure for making advance directives.

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