Mental healthcare and issues regarding mental health are as important as
physical health. Indian laws have recognized the importance of mental healthcare
ever since 1987, but mental health has always been a stigma in the country. Due
to the stigma, people are hesitant to talk about it, and therefore, there is a
lack of awareness regarding these issues.
Currently, in the pandemic several
people are facing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or having
suicidal thoughts, yet they are unaware about the means to seek help. People are
unaware of the laws, their rights and the forum to approach for any kind of
help. There are several laws and policies in the country governing mental
healthcare but the primary law is the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. This Act
replaced the old Mental Healthcare Act of 1987.
Objective of the Act
The main objective of the Mental Healthcare Act,2017 is to protect and promote
mental illness, which is a disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation,
or memory affects the ability to meet the ordinary demands of life. It also
includes mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs. It
aims at providing a better mental healthcare system and facilities to all
Rights Available To Persons With Mental-Illness [i]
Laws And Policies Related To Mental Health In India
- Right to Access Mental Health Care
Every person irrespective of their caste, creed, sex or religion has the right
to access good quality mental health care and treatment at affordable costs. The
right to access healthcare services is available only in the manner which is
required by the person or their family members.
- Right to Community Living
Every person with a mental illness has the right to live and be recognized as a
part of the society. They should not be separated from the society or be forced
to live in a mental healthcare establishment only because they are not accepted
by their family or society.
- Right to Protection from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
Every person living in a mental health establishment, has the right to be
treated with dignity. In an establishment they should not be subject to any
cruel or inhuman treatment and should be living in a hygienic, friendly
environment with recreational activities.
- Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination
All persons who have a mental illness should be treated equally as a normal
person with any kind of physical illness. They should not be denied any services
and should not discriminated on the basis of their faith, belief, race, caste,
sex or religion.
- Right to Information
Every person who is undergoing treatment or has approached seeking mental health
care, has the right to be informed about his mental condition. The person is
entitled to know about the treatment and the medications that is being given.
Although this information can be shared only when the person is in the state of
mind to understand.
- Right to Confidentiality
Every person who is undergoing treatment has the right to confidentiality. Any
information regarding his treatment, mental health should be maintained
confidential by the healthcare professionals who are treating them. Only
necessary information regarding the patient can be shared with other doctors or
professionals, cases when it necessary for the family to know or cases when
there could be a threat to the life of the patient or other persons, in such
cases necessary information can be shared. The right to confidentiality is also
applicable to information stored in the digital form, which means that any
photographs of the patients should not be made available to the media, without
- Right to Access Medical Records
All persons have the right to access their medical records and no information
should be withheld by the medical professionals regarding the patient's health.
Although, if such an information could harm the patient, the medical
professional can withhold information. In case the patient wants to access the
withheld information, an application can be sent to the medical board.
- Right to Personal Contacts and Communication
Every person in a medical healthcare establishment has the right to make phone
calls and have personal contacts. The person also has the right to refuse any
form of communication through phone calls and emails. Although, important
communications from their family, lawyers, judges or government authorities
cannot be refused.
- Right to legal aid
Every person with a mental illness has the right to free legal aid. It is the
duty of the medical healthcare professional to ensure that the patients are
entitled to free legal aid services mentioned in the various laws.
- Right to file complaints for deficiency in services
Every person who is not satisfied with the medical services can file a complaint
with the medical board or state authority.
- The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1933:
This Act provides equal
opportunities and prevents unfair treatment on the basis of personal
characteristics. Mental illness being a personal characteristic also comes under
- Mental Health Act 1987:
This Act has been replaced by the new Act in 2017.
- Persons with Disabilities Act, 1955:
Under this Act, mental illness is
considered as a disability and persons with mental retardation or mental illness
can gain benefits under this Act.
- National Trust Act, 1999:
This is a welfare legislation that was created
for persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple
disabilities. This Act provides opportunities and helps them lead an independent
- Mental Healthcare Act, 2017:
This Act is the primary legislation dealing
with medical healthcare in India.
- National Mental Health Policy, 2014:
The Government formulated this policy
with the intention of promoting mental health and helping people recover from
illness. The main aim of this policy is to de-stigmatize mental-illness and
ensures that everyone has access to healthcare. [ii]
- National Mental Health Programme:
The Government had launched this programme in 1982 to ensure better availability of mental healthcare. This
programme deals with treatment of mental-illness, rehabilitation and promotion
of positive mental health. In 1996, a district Mental Health Program was
started. The Program was re-strategized in 2003 to and included Modernization of
State Mental Hospitals and Up-gradation of Psychiatric Wings of Medical
Colleges/General Hospitals. In 2009 a scheme for manpower development was also
Health Insurance Schemes for Mental-illness [iv]:
Amendment to the Act
- Ayshman Bharat Scheme by the Central Government:
This scheme offers an
insurance cover of up to 5 lakhs. It has 17 different packages dedicated for
mental disorders. This scheme covers all mental health treatment costs in both
private and public hospitals.
- Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojna by the Odisha Government:
This scheme offers
free treatment in all government and empaneled hospitals for a sum of 5 lakhs
for male members and 7 lakhs for female members. It covers the cost of treatment
of psychiatric disorders in government hospitals.
In 2018, the Government declared that attempt to suicide is not a crime under
the mental Healthcare Act. As per Section 115 of the Mental Healthcare Act, it
would be presumed that the person who attempted suicide was under stress or was
suffering mental issues and therefore should be treated with compassion. The
Government also banned electric shock treatment to mentally-ill children.[v]
Recent Judicial Decisions
Places To Approach For Help
- SHIKA NISCHAL V. NICL
In 2021, the Delhi High Court held that there should be no discrimination
between physical illness and mental illness. It was also held that all insurance
companies should provide for mental health insurance. [vi]
- ORDER OF THE SUPREME COURT
In 2020, the Supreme Court held that depression is not considered as unsoundness
of mind and cannot be used as a defense for crimes.[vii]
- NAVTEJ SINGH JOHAR V. UNION OF INDIA
In 2018, the Supreme Court held non-conformity towards social norms cannot
be considered as a mental illness under the Mental Healthcare Act.[viii]
- EERA V. STATE OF DELHI
In 2017, the Supreme Court stated that mental retardation is different from
mental illness. Mental retardation is the slow growth of the mind, which can be
considered as a disability of the person, but mental illness is a state of
- Incase of violation of rights- As per the Mental
Healthcare, the Medical Board and State Authorities can
be approached.[x] With the help of lawyers, the
Supreme Court or High Courts can be approached for violation of rights.
- For deficiency in medical services- Consumer Redressal Forums can be
approached by virtue of the Consumer Protection Act.[xi]
- For help related to mental health-the government
toll free help-line number 1800-599-0019 can be approached.[xii]
- For other resources- Various non-governmental
portals can also be approached for help.[xiii]
Though mental healthcare has been a stigma in India, times have changed and
people have started accepting mental health issues. India has several laws and
policies regarding mental health and has seen various developments with the
evolvement of time. These laws and policies can have a greater impact on people
and can be implemented in better ways.
The first step towards greater impact
would be by raising awareness about these laws and rights and ensuring that each
person facing mental health problems can seek for help and can good quality
treatment. Raising awareness about these issues would benefit people in many
ways and also save lives. Therefore, the Government should take initiatives to
spread awareness about these laws and the importance of good quality healthcare
and treatment of mental disorders.
Awareness can be spread through social media,
newspapers, radio and television so that it reaches people of all regions.
Further, in the pandemic, steps can be taken to create online portals where
people can share their problems and seek any kind of help. Since mental
healthcare is one of the major issues faced by people of all ages groups,
initiatives can be taken by individuals and NGOs as well to spread awareness and
bring about the required change.
- Mental Heathcare Act, 2017, Chapter V, No.10, Acts of Parliament, 2017.
- New Pathways New Hope, National Mental Health Policy of India, Ministry
of Health and Family Welfare, 2014, http://nhm.gov.in/images/pdf/National_Health_Mental_Policy.pdf.
- National Health Portal, https://www.nhp.gov.in/national-mental-health-programme_pg
(last visited Aug.4, 2021).
- Om Prakash Singh, Insurance for mental illness: Government schemes must
show way, Indian Journal of Pyschiatry, Mar.2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6425797/.
- Government decriminalises suicide, notifies new law, NDTV, (Jun.3,2018)
- Gayatri Joshi, Confirmity of Mental Health Insurances with the Mental
Healthcare Act, 2017, Mondaq, https://www.mondaq.com/india/healthcare/1070482/conformity-of-the-health-insurance-policies-with-the-mental-healthcare-act-2017
(last visited Aug. 4, 2021).
- Mehal Jain, Depression Not Unsoundness Of Mind For S. 84, IPC: Supreme
Court Dismisses Appeal Against Dismissal By Ex-Army man [Read Order], Bar and
(last visited Aug.4,2021).
- (2018) 10 SCC 1.
- (2017) 15 SCC 133.
- Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, 28, No.10, Acts of Parliament, 2017.
- Consumer Protection Act, 2019, 2(11), No. 35, Acts of Parliament,
- Special Correspondent, Centre launches 24/7 toll free mental health
helpline, THE HINDU, (Sept.7, 2020), https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/centre-launches-247-toll-free-mental-health-helpline/article32545325.ece.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Jyothsna Nanda Kishore
Authentication No: SP125665481263-13-0921