The Bombay High Court has expressed concern over the disturbing scenario of the rehabilitation of cured mental health patients and the implementation of the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 in Maharashtra.

In light of the same, the Court has passed a slew of directions to the State Mental Health Authority and the State Government, including a direction to develop a comprehensive plan for rehabilitating cured patients within six months.

The Bench of Justice Nitin Jamdar and Justice MM Sathaye highlighted that, "The Act of 2017 grants rights to individuals with mental illness and fixes responsibilities for the designated authorities. The State Mental Health Authority is the Nodal Authority for ensuring the effective enforcement of this Act in Maharashtra. Without an active and functional State Mental Health Authority, the Act of 2017 will remain on paper. Even after two years, the essential data is still lacking, and there is no clear road map for the rehabilitation of recovered patients. The Act assigns responsibility to both the State Government and the State Mental Health Authority to achieve its objectives. It is imperative for the State Government to fulfil its obligations concerning rehabilitation and funding for the State Mental Health Authority."

Counsel Pranati Mehra appeared for the petitioner, while GP PP Kakde and AGP MM Pabale appeared for the State.

The Petitioner, a practicing Psychiatrist, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to bring attention to the deficiencies in the implementation of the legal framework for mental health care and the protection of individuals' rights with mental health issues. The Petitioner urgently requested the collection of data and reports from all Regional Mental Health Hospitals in the State of Maharashtra regarding patient details, as well as a report from the State on the status of implementing statutory frameworks. Additionally, the Petitioner sought remedial orders and directions from the Court.

The High Court passed the following directions:

i) The State Mental Health Authority must develop a comprehensive plan for rehabilitating cured patients within six months, inviting inputs from relevant stakeholders.

ii) Until the comprehensive rehabilitation plan is finalized, a draft plan outlined in paragraph 88 should be followed, aiming to discharge 50 to 70 patients per month from mental health establishments to rehabilitation centers or halfway homes.

iii) Efforts should be made to evenly distribute patients during the rehabilitation process, with the State Mental Health Authority tasked to develop norms and protocols within six months.

iv) The State Mental Health Authority must register all mental health establishments, except those exempted, within six months, and establish quality and service provision norms within four months.

v) Registration of mental health professionals by the State Mental Health Authority must commence within one month and be completed within eight months.

vi) The State Mental Health Authority must hold meetings at least four times a year, inviting representatives from relevant authorities such as Legal Services, Jail, and Police, to address issues under the Act of 2017.

vii) An annual report must be prepared by the State Mental Health Authority by the end of December each year.

viii) The State Mental Health Authority must create a dedicated website within four months, with a feedback mechanism, and publish the Annual Report in the public domain.

ix) Basic data collection for effective Act of 2017 implementation must be initiated, with authorities and organizations required to cooperate.

x) A protocol for training concerned individuals on Act provisions must be developed within four months, with assistance from the State Government.

xi) Regular workshops and seminars should be conducted to sensitize stakeholders about the Act of 2017.

xii) Posters emphasizing the Rights of Persons with Mental Illness must be displayed prominently in mental health establishments.

xiii) Additional halfway homes should be established within four months.

xiv) Adequate funding for the State Mental Health Authority must be ensured by the State Government.

xv) A draft plan of action for beneficiary awareness must be prepared within four months.

xvi) Vacancies in the State Mental Health Authority must be filled promptly.

xvii) A common portal for unknown patients in mental health establishments must be established within three months.

xviii) Monthly progress reports on patient discharge must be submitted to Mental Health Review Boards by police stations.

xix) Sanctioned posts of psychologists and psychiatrists in jails must be filled within three months.

xx) Recommendations from the National Human Rights Commission regarding mental healthcare in prisons must be examined for implementation.

xxi) Mental Health Review Boards must convene regularly to ensure timely rehabilitation processes.

xxii) Cooperation protocols between Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority and State Mental Health Authority must be developed within four months.

xxiii) Awareness of legal aid available to persons with mental illness must be emphasized by the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority.

xxiv) All relevant departments and organizations must cooperate with the State Mental Health Authority, with the Authority granted liberty to apply for suitable directions if faced with a lack of cooperation.

Accordingly, the petition was disposed of.


Petitioner: Counsel Pranati Mehra

Respondents: Senior Counsel Viishwajeet Sawant, Counsel Prabhakar M Jhadav, GP PP Kakade, AGP MM Pabale, Counsel Rebecca Gonsalves

Cause Title: Dr. Harish Shetty vs The State of Maharashtra & Ors.

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