17 chained mentally-ill people released from faith-based asylum, Centre informs Supreme Court

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta informed the Supreme Court on Monday that 17 mentally-ill persons found chained in a “faith-based asylum” in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh were admitted there by their own relatives and have been freed by the government.

Mr. Mehta informed a Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer that the institution in question was not even an ‘asylum’ but just a place where people who are believed to be “possessed” are left to be by their families. They are chained to “cure them and rid them of spirits”.

Justice Nazeer reacted that it is people who leave mentally-ill patients in such places who are actually mentally unbalanced.

Justice Siri said chaining mentally-ill people is no cure, but a violation of their human rights.

Mr. Mehta agreed with Justice Nazeer, saying “people who admit pyschiatric patients in such religious places, across all religions, are mentally-ill themselves”.

On Friday last, a shocked Supreme Court had the Solicitor-General after getting to know that these patients are kept in chains.

The Bench had urged Mr. Mehta to take immediate action while saying that “a mentally-ill person is also a human being and has dignity”.

The plight of the inmates in the “faith-based mental asylum” was brought to the attention of the top court by Supreme Court lawyer Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who said shackling them in irons was against the provisions of the Mental Health Act 2017 and violated their fundamental right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Mr. Bansal had annexed photographs of the chained inmates to prove his case.

The court, meanwhile, issued notice to the Centre and the States on Mr. Bansal’s plea to implement the 2017 Act, including the setting up of a State Mental Health Authority in every State.

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