Indian Legal System refers to the system of laws which operate in the
country. During the old times, there was a distinguished tradition of law, which
had a historically independent school of legal theory as well as practice. Law
as a matter of religious convention and philosophical discussion has an eminent
history in India. During the Islamic rule, Sharia law came to India, but that
was applicable only to the Muslim people.
When British Government came to India, there was a break in tradition, and the
Hindu and the Islamic laws were displaced by the common law. As a result, the
present judicial system of India concludes largely from the British system and
has a little correlation to the society of the pre-British era. Most of the
current Indian Laws are largely based on the English Common Law, a system of law
which is based on the recorded judicial precedents and shows considerable
influence on European, American and many of the legislations introduced by the
British which are still operative.
Therefore, the roots of the most of legislations in respect of persons with
mental disorders can be traced from the British period. There is a vast
relationship between the concept of the mental illness, the treatment of the
person who is mentally ill and the law.
According to a report, for psychiatrists the court is the “another house, with
the different motives, goals and the rules of conduct.” While the psychiatrist
is concerned with the treatment of mental disorders and the health of the
patient, the court is mainly concerned with the determination of competency,
adverseness, diminished responsibility and the welfare of the people forming the
society. Basically mental illness is a condition which causes serious disorder
in a person’s behaviour or thinking.
It refers to a wide range of the condition of mental health disorders that
affect the mood, thinking and behavior. Mental illness is the most traumatic
illness a person can ever have. There are five signs of mental illness. They
- Long-lasting sadness or irritability.
- Extremely high and low moods.
- Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.
- Social withdrawal.
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.
Some examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders,
eating disorders, personality disorder, psychotic disorder and addiction
behavior. When a person suffers from mental illness one may tries to attempt
suicide or he/she suffers from mere depression. Depression is a very common
mental disorder which is different from usual mood swings. Globally, more than
264 million people of mostly all the age groups suffer from depression.
Depression is of many kinds, but one must consult a therapist, a friend, or any
family member with which victim feels safe to have a conversation without being
judged, when the victim is depressed and later feels to commit suicide. Victim
is afraid to pour out the feelings by a thought of being judged or merely feels
“what the people around me will think of me?” As the society being so
judgemental, that they say anything about anyone even without knowing them and
try to blame someone without knowing if it’s their fault or not.
Laws made by India for the treatment of persons with mental disorders
The Constitution of our country guarantees a person’s right to life and personal
liberty (article 21), including the right to move freely anywhere and everywhere
and the freedom of expression.
It also includes:
“facilities for reading, writing and expressing oneself in different forms,
freely moving about and mixing with other human beings.”
According to the Representation of People Act, 1950 (section 16), a person is
disqualified for the registration in an electoral roll if he is of unsound mind
and stand declared by the court of law. Therefore, the person so disqualified
cannot hold any public office (under the Constitution) such as President,
Vice-President, Member of Parliament and the State Legislatures. Relationship
between psychiatry and law mostly comes into play during the time of treatment
The treatment of such people constantly enclose curtailment of personal liberty
of psychiatric patients. Also laws must determine the capability of PMI,
especially when it comes to ascertaining personal responsibility for actions.
PMI face many threats which are not connected to their treatment. These threats
arise from various places which include family members, friends, organizations
and other communities and different people in society, who somehow take
advantage of these individuals in any way. Most of the countries in the world
have laws regarding treatment of psychiatric patients, India is among them.
Though there are various descriptions of different forms of mental disorders,
the care of the mentally ill patients in the asylums in our country is a British
innovation. In 1858, when the British takeover the administration of India, a
large number of laws were lay down so that the care and treatment of mentally
ill persons could be controlled in British India.
The laws were as follows:
- The Lunacy Act, 1858 (for Supreme Courts)
- The Lunacy Act, 1858 (for District Courts)
- The Indian Lunatic Asylum Act, 1858 (amendments were made in 1886 and
- The Military Lunatic Acts, 1877
The acts mention above gave guidelines for the establishment of the mental
asylums and procedure to admit patients with mental disorder. The British
picture existing in the middle of the 19th century served as the scene of lunacy
legislations in the same period in India. The different acts of the year 1858
reflected the legalistic frame for the administration of the mentally ill.
Hence, the Indian Lunacy Act of 1912 was enacted. Lunatic asylums, which were
named as mental hospitals in 1922 are now regulated and supervised by a central
authority. The act of voluntary admission was introduced.
Still, the main focus
was on to prevent the society from the danger of mentally ills and to make sure
that no sane person is admitted in these mental asylums. The psychiatrists were
appointed for full time in these asylums. Provisions of judicial probation for
mentally ill persons were also provided in the act. After the Second World War
in the year 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by
the UN General Assembly. Indian Psychiatric Society submitted a draft in 1950,
Mental Health Bill so that they can replace the outmoded ILA-1912. Mental Health
Act (MHA-87) was finally constituted in 1987 after a long procedure.
there is a need for a suitable mechanism to ensure that affected individuals get
proper medical attention and care and some policies and provisions are
implemented to protect the rights of such group. Like many other countries in
the world, India has laws that regulate the treatment of psychiatric patients,
or the mentally ill patients. But very few acts are for the direct benefits or
rights of those with PMI as they have different deficiencies also.
Mental Health Program which exists since 1982 has been more proactive than
reactive, despite being re-strategized in the year 1996. The better aspects of
the mental health care reform are from the National Human Rights Commission,
2008 reports of the country. The reports mainly highlights the gross shortage
that existed in the institutional care of PMI and also illuminates the positive
changes in the individuals that can be brought about with tenacious monitoring,
effective intervention and cooperation. This can result in higher participation
from the society, improvement in the reservoir and living conditions of the
To cope with such issues, On April 7, 2017, the Mental Health Care Act was
passed and in July 7, 2017, it came into enforcement. This act seeks to protect
and promote the rights of persons with mental illness. This Act replaced the
previously existing Mental Health Act of 1987. It remains to be seen if this act
will provide protection and equitable care to psychiatric patients. The most
important challenge ahead is the need for a cooperative drive to improve human
resources in the field of mental health. It must be emphasized that the goal of
any law or other legal provision or act should be the welfare of the mentally
ill people and the society.
Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 stated:
Nothing is an offence, which is done by a
person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is
incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either
wrong or contrary to law.
McNaghten Rule defines the criminal responsibility of
mentally ill person in our country courts and it has been mentioned in the sec
84. It has been held by the honourable Supreme Court that the law assumes every
person of age of discretion to be in his senses and defense on the basis of
insanity needs to be proven. If the insanity of a person is proved by defense,
such persons are admitted to the Psychiatric Hospitals as per section 471 (i) of
the criminal procedure act, 1973.
There have been cases of less time period
sentence on account of mental illness. One such case of lesser time sentence on
account of mental illness was where the feeling of life unbearable on account of
domestic fight, a woman jumped into a well with her children, in this case it
was held that the only sentence that could be passed was the lesser sentence of
imprisonment for life (Baijanti Bai vs State of M.P
.). Section 89 of the IPC
provides that act done in good faith for benefit of child or insane person, by
or by consent of guardian. Section 305 of the IPC provides for abetment of
suicide of child or insane person.
We have witnessed the death of our versatile actor Sushant Singh Rajput which
shook the entire nation and reason behind his death was suicide by depression.
Mental illness has become an issue where necessary steps are not taken by anyone
and as a result of which the death ratio is increasing day by day .The current
generation is afraid to express themselves and they are afraid to communicate
with others. The thought of being judged by the society and they thinks that:
what people will think and say about me and so is the reason they are afraid
to visit a therapist. These decisions can only make the situation more worst and
take their life.
There are many helpline numbers and NGO'S opened by the government for the
people who have such depressing thoughts and have major depression or the desire
to take away their life since long. The helpline listen to them and helps them
emotionally so that they are not carried away by their own thoughts.
The person can call 9820466726, 9152987821 for getting help with such thoughts.
They always provide 24*7 services. Depression and life taking thoughts are like
PB and J sandwich both combined and with increasing suicidal ratio it becomes
very important that proper precautionary steps are taken to take care of such
people emotionally and stop them from committing such mistakes.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Ishika
Authentication No: MA33280675309-14-0321