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Mentally ill persons should be taken "more seriously" amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Supreme Court to Central government.
Updated On : Jul 06, 2021 |   Anjali Agrawal

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court asked the Central government to make mentally ill people their utmost priority amid the COVID pandemic for testing, tracing, and vaccinating them, and that the Central government should take into note the condition of patients in mental health care institutions. 

Maharashtra was transferring inmates from mental health institutions to beggar homes, to which an exception was made by the court. 

The order was passed to this effect by the bench composed of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah wherein while hearing a plea seeking the rehabilitation of over 8,000 mentally ill persons who have recovered but are still languishing in asylums and hospitals.

Madhavi Divan, Additional Solicitor General informed the hon’ble Bench that to discuss the discrepancies in data as to how many patients have cured and how many still need treatment, the meeting of all states for the same could not take place last year due to COVID pandemic. A virtual meeting for the same has been scheduled for July 12, she added. 

"It's time the Union takes this case seriously. We direct Chief Secretaries of all states that a status report be filed before this Court at least a week before the listing...the onset of COVID-19 has affected mental illness both in terms of medical care and treatment. The issue of testing, tracing, and vaccinating those suffering from mental illness to be taken up on priority. Persons in mental health institutions need to be protected against the onset of the pandemic..." the court in its today’s order stated. 

Amicus Curiae appointed in the case, Advocate Gaurav Kumar stated that Maharashtra was transferring such inmates from mental health care institutions to beggar homes and stressed the need to vaccinate all the patients of mental health care institutions. 

The Court strongly objected to the same and ordered that such practices need to be stopped. The Apex court stated, “It is informed that Maharashtra is transferring patients from mental health establishments to beggar homes/custodial institutions. Any such transfer will be counterproductive and against the letter and spirit of the Mental Healthcare Act. Counsel for Maharashtra to seek instructions and if such practice is continuing, has to be stopped forthwith. All states before the July 12 meeting to ensure that discrepancies in data are resolved and furnish the report regarding the establishment of halfway homes.”

The matter is next listed for hearing on July 27. The Court clarified that the case would be listed every three weeks for tracking the progress.