The Rajya Sabha had passed it in August 2016 with 134 official amendments.
New Delhi: Suicide attempts by mentally ill persons will no longer be punishable under the Indian Penal Code. Ending years of debate and after wide-ranging consultations with the stakeholders, Parliament passed the Mental Healthcare Bill on Monday that decriminalises suicide attempts by mentally ill people besides providing for the right to better healthcare for people suffering from mental illness.
The bill also has a provision to protect and restore the property right of the mentally ill people, health minister J.P. Nadda said in the Lok Sabha on Monday, just before it was passed by the House by a voice vote. The Rajya Sabha had passed it in August 2016 with 134 official amendments. All the amendments moved by the Opposition members in the Lok Sabha were defeated.
The bill — described as a “patient-centric” and “progressive” legislation” by Mr Nadda — also focuses on community-based treatment and provides for special treatment for women besides seeking to ensure healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental illness “in a manner that does not intrude on their rights and dignity”.
There was a need to take care of the health and hygiene of the patients, he said, adding the right of a child with his/her mother will also be maintained.
“There were consultations at the regional level, as well at the Centre. After consultations with the stakeholders, the bill was sent to the standing committee and post amendments it came to the Rajya Sabha”, the minister said.
The government accepted most of the suggestions of the standing committee, the health minister said. Around 29 members participated in the discussion and almost all of them extended support to the bill.
Stating that the 1987 Mental Act was institutionalised, the minister said that in the present bill, instead of the institution, the focus was on the community.
Sterilisation would not be conducted on a person who is mentally ill, Mr Nadda said, describing it as “an insane and inhuman act”. Earlier, members cutting across the political spectrum supported the Mental Healthcare Bill.
NCP’s Supriya Sule said the standing committee has “walked an extra mile” to incorporate the suggestions of all the stakeholders.
BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said this legislation is the only Bill which received 124 amendments and almost all have been accepted by the government.
Highlighting the shortage of medics and paremedics, BJP member Heena Gavit said there are only 4,500 doctors specialised in mental health when the requirement was 12,500 and 3,000 nurses per one lakh patients having mental disorders.
She rued that the country does not have any Phd seat for research in mental health. She said there should be a proper mechanism to take consent of patients for their treatment and they should not be treated as an “experimental animals.”
Sule also demanded inclusion of drug addiction and alcoholism into the category of mental disease.
Supporting the legislation, Ravindra Babu (TDP) said, this was one of the “finest legislation” in last three years, but it mostly focuses on schizophrenia.