The Supreme Court on February 25, 2019, in the case of Gaurav Kumar Bansal v. Mr. Dinesh Kumar & Ors., has issued some directions for rehabilitation of those who are cured of mental illness and who don’t need further hospitalization, however, they are still staying in mental asylums either because they are homeless or they are not accepted by their families.
On July 10, 2017, the Supreme Court had issued an order for setting up rehabilitation homes for persons (i) living with mental illnesses who have been cured; (ii) who do not need further hospitalization; (iii) who are homeless; and (iv) who are not accepted by their families. The court directed the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to circulate the guidelines to the State Governments and to the Union Territories for implementation within one year.
However, due to non-compliance of the directions by some of the State Governments and the Union Territories, the present contempt petition was filed which came up for hearing before a Bench comprising of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta.
The Union of India submitted a note indicating that two sets of guidelines have been prepared under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The guidelines contained an enabling framework for State Governments and Union Territories in ensuring the setting up of 'Halfway Homes' and 'Long Stay Homes' for de-institutionalized persons. The guidelines envisage that the State Governments and the Union Territories must either expand their existing Homes or construct new Homes at their own cost. Alternatively, it suggested that the State Governments and the Union Territories can engage NGOs within their jurisdiction to set up rehabilitation Homes or expand existing Homes.
The Bench taking into consideration the submission made said that "In our view, both approaches can be complementary. Besides the State Governments setting up their own Homes, their efforts can be supplemented by ensuring that accredited NGOs with a proven track record are encouraged to take the benefit of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme by seeking financial assistance, as envisaged.
The Bench directed the Centre to verify the status of compliance from each of the State Governments and the Union Territories and require each of them to lay down a road map to ensure that necessary infrastructure is set up in the form of ‘Halfway Homes’ or, as the case may be, institutional arrangements for rehabilitation of long stay patients for whom institutionalized stay in a hospital environment is no longer necessary. A time schedule for implementation should be chalked out, the Bench said.
The Bench then issued the following directions and listed the matter for further hearing on May 1, 2019:-
- All the State Governments and the Union Territories shall submit full data to the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, within a period of one month from today on the status of compliance and on the facilities for rehabilitation of de-institutionalized persons who have been treated for mental illnesses;
- The data shall specifically incorporate a road map by each State Government and the Union Territory for setting up 'Halfway Homes' within their respective territories and for ensuring that due publicity is given to the guidelines issued by the Union of India to facilitate accredited NGOs taking the benefit of the Scheme;
- On the basis of the data which is furnished by the State Governments and the Union Territories, the Union of India shall submit a further report to this Court in regard to the steps necessary to be taken by each State and Union Territory for due compliance with the earlier directions issued by this Court and with the present directions;
- The Union of India should suggest a road map with regard to each State Government and Union Territory. The report shall be circulated to all the States and the Union Territories which would be heard by this Court when final directions are issued for compliance;
- When a meeting is convened by the Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, it shall be attended by all the Secretaries of the corresponding departments of the State Governments/Union Territories. The meeting may be chaired by the senior amongst the Secretaries in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment;
- Any default on the part of the State Governments and the Union Territories to cooperate with the Union of India and to submit a road map and data in terms of the present order shall invite serious consequences leading to invocation of the contempt jurisdiction.