Everybody is not equal and everybody is not the same and for this reason; there are people born with certain deficiencies or illnesses in their body; and one such illness is sometimes with their mental health. People with mental disabilities are commonly known as people of unsound mind under Indian law; but does this mental illness affect their rights as a person? Or what kind of rights and laws are provided to such people in India?
As we know that India was governed by British rule for many years; due to which Indian judicial system derived from the British system and English common law; and thus the big reason why our Mental Health Laws are based on British laws.
In our constitution, it is clearly mentioned; that no person should be deprived of his/ her life and personal liberty under Article 21 still people with disabilities and unsound mind are not qualified to register under election according to Representation of people’s act 1950 and this even takes away his/ her right to hold any public office. During the time of treatment of People With Mental Illness, their personal rights are mostly curtailed; and the laws with providing treatment to people with illness were enacted by the British government.
Mental Illness related acts of British India
- The Lunacy Act 1858
- Indian lunatic Act of 1858
- The Military lunatic Act of 1877
Almost all these activities are for providing asylum to people with mental disabilities but during that time when Indian was still government by British the condition of such hospital and asylum was very bad and no proper attention was given thus it was later in 1922 when the asylum was renamed as a mental hospital; and were now controlled by the central government; and it was made sure that such disability does not increase among citizens. India was paying attention to such issues and after World War 2nd; that we submitted a Mental Health bill 1950 to the United Nations General Assembly.
Mental Health bill 1950 – The main features of this bill areas are such as –
- The type of treatment to be given to people with such illness and to make sure that what category of people will be considered as unsound mind.
- Both the center and state authorities to pay attention to forming hospitals and providing all kind of requirements.
- There should be an appointment of such authorities like police which keep a check on people with mental health wandering on streets; and to bring them to hospital and keep treatment.
- In case if there is any breach of the provisions provided in the given act there should be punishable for the same.
The Bill was passed in 1987 but with time it was seen that there were many defects in the acts few of them are highlighted below –
- The allegation was concerned mainly with licensing, regulations, administration, and guardianship.
- Issues related to human rights and health care were not given due consideration under this act.
- There was a long procedure which makes it very complicated and defective.
- Even the constitutional validity of the act was questioned by human rights activists.
But still, this act is under amendment; so that it soon reach the requirements of the United Nation Convention for persons with disabilities. Even after the failure of the few act, India is still under progress to bring best for people with disabilities; and to give them their right in 2006 India adopted United Nation convention for rights of people with disabilities and this was enacted in 2018 and the article under the convention which provides rights to disabled people are as such –
- There will be the legal capacity of all the disabled people on the equal aspect of rights; as mentioned under article 2 of the convention.
- Under the provisions of article 3; it is said that the government should take all the measures; which will provide help to all the people with the defect.
- It is under article 4 of the said convention that there should be no abuse of the support system. But it is also made clear that compulsory health care is not permitted.
Civil or Criminal Law
With time the circumstances of life change; and so the rule has to be amended accordingly similarly with time new offense has been discovered against the disabled people in the different legal fields whether it’s civil law or criminal law. India in different fields of law made sure that people with disabilities should get better representation in society.
They should be treated equal to others and keep this in mind; A Mental Health Care bill was introduced in the year 2011; with the motive that government will give attention to all those with mental illness and to provide a better standard of life to them but still; his bill faced certain criticism by the human rights activist due to which this bill was not popular and no universal application was made but at the same time other civil and criminal law made certain sections of their act; which favor the people with mental disabilities or unsound mind these include.
Several Indian Laws
- INDIAN CONTRACT ACT 1872- This act State that if a person is of unsound mind but at a certain period in a day the person becomes sound mind; that he/she can make a contract; but only those contact will be valid which are made while the person was of sound mind Section 12.
- MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE- Under this act, certain sections have been mentioned which clearly states that if a person is of unsound mind he or she is not capable of getting married as they can’t give valid consent and so the person can not be forced to marry anyone even in case marriage take place such marriage will only be considered as void.
- The doctrine of frustration- The doctrine of frustration is present in India u/s. 56 of the Indian Contract Act 1852. It says that any act which was to be performed after the contract is made; becomes unlawful or impossible to perform, and which the promisor could not prevent; then such an act which becomes impossible or unlawful will become void
This act includes the definition of mental illness which says that a person suffers any kind of psychopathic disorder. Even after marriage if a person becomes unsound mind the other spouse has the right to take divorce.
- INDIAN SUCCESSION ACT 1925– Section 59 of this act clearly states; that a person who is of sound mind can make his will but no person; who is of unsound mind is not capable enough of making a will; as he or she can decide with the state of mind as to whom he should transfer his property.
- INDIAN PENAL CODE 1860- Section 84 of the act that is any crime has been committed by a person of unsound mind; and was not capable of knowing the nature of the act; which he has committed such act will not be treated as an offense under the law. It is clearly stated in the act say; that the unity of the person has to prove under the law only then an action can be taken against that person.
It is very clear that the government is working in progress of Mentally disabled persons; and the law in different Act provides the provision to support the rights of disabled people; though there is much law which is under amendment or revision the only main of the government and lawmakers is the welfare of the society and of those who cannot think of their own welfare.