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Directions to State Institutions and Disability

 

A majority of persons with disabilities (both mental and physical) in India are dependent on state-run institutions for medical, residential and other basic facilities. According to a National Human Rights Commission study conducted in 1999, about 20 to 30 million people in India appear to require some kind of mental health care during their lifetime. The report also indicated that barring a few who could afford private services; a majority of the people turn to the 37 government hospitals that are unevenly spread in the country. Data has shown that even these facilities are of unacceptable standard. The institutions face problems of varying nature ranging from overcrowding to non-availability of basic treatment facilities.

Activists and interested groups have brought this to the notice of the Courts mostly in the form of Public Interest Litigations. In such cases, the Court has constituted an independent expert committee to evaluate the condition in the institution and have made recommendations on various issues - hygiene, quality of diet, basic amenities, staffing pattern etc. Based on the committee reports, the Courts have passed appropriate orders - to improve the living conditions and to respect the basic human rights of its residents.

In a few cases, when Courts were not satisfied with the administration of state run mental hospital or a protective home, it has passed orders for the transfer of administrative agency, for instance, from state to central government.  Such directions were made for IHBAS (formerly the Shahdara mental hospital), Delhi; and Agra Mansik Arogyashala which has resulted in the improvement of the considerably poor conditions.

Intervention of the Courts has also been sought when persons with mental disability were housed in inappropriate places. For instance, a wandering mentally ill person may be placed by a law enforcing agency in a jail for ‘safe custody’ without the benefit of the required medical attention and care. In such cases, the Court has ordered periodical checkup of such people and directed them to be shifted to appropriate institutions.

Another significant intervention has been for people with mental illness languishing in jails due to mistaken identity and who continue to remain there without treatment and trial. As per the criminal law rules, ‘a trial of an accused cannot be carried on when the person is unable to follow the proceeding’. In such a situation the trial is suspended and the person given appropriate treatment till sufficient recovery is made. In one such case, the accused could not attend the court proceedings since he was mentally ill and did not show any signs of recovery either. He grew old waiting for the proceedings to start and when this was brought to the notice of the Court, directions were passed to transfer him to an old-age home under the supervision of a psychiatrist.

Similarly, directions for implementation of the provisions of the PWD Act have also been passed. One such instance was when the Medical Board (responsible for issuing certificates specifying the extent of disability) was not set up, the Court noting that without certificates, concessions and privileges could not be availed of, passed an order to set up the board immediately.

Courts have also made very significant interventions especially in instances of disability resulting from disasters. For example, in a case of a bomb blast in a public place which resulted in the physical impairment of a person the Court held that the State had a responsibility to protect the people and directed it to pay compensation to the victim.

The situation in other state run institutions for disabilities is in no better condition either. Other major interventions have been in the case of persons with visual impairment. In this area, directions have been passed to implement certain rules such as periodical check up and treatment of visually impaired students in blind schools. Similarly, Court has passed orders to improve the conditions of blind students in hostels for the blind and to provide them with basic requirements.

In other instances, Courts have asked the authorities to make concessions and special privileges to persons with disabilities while allotting land, apartments, exemption from tax of institutions which manufacture mobility aids.

Judgments related to "Directions to State Institutions and Disability"

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