Court orders better facilities for mentally ill prisoners

Court orders better facilities for mentally ill prisoners

The division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said: "The prisoners lodged in Tihar Jail have significant amount of mental health morbidity. Mostly, this aspect remains ignored or neglected because of lack of awareness and sensitisation among judicial officers."

"Implement the guidelines of IHBAS (Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences) as soon as possible. Accordingly the petition is disposed off," said the bench. The direction came on a petition by Sonali Sachdeva, a prisoner in Tihar Jail, alleging that mentally ill prisoners were languishing in jails and at various mental health treatment facilities without any reason, violating their human rights.

The court said that if the Delhi government would not implement the guidelines then the petitioner would have the full right to file a fresh petition. The court Nov 10, 2010, ordered the framing of the guidelines. A meeting with jail officials was organised by director of the IHBAS March 7.

"There is complete agreement and concurrence between officials from Tihar and the IHBAS over the proposed guidelines," said the petitioner. The IHBAS gave eight guidelines.

"The spectrum of psychiatric disorders goes beyond the legal concept of unsoundness of mind. There is a need to understand the concept of common mental disorder in which the person may retain the capacity of logical reasoning but may not be able to control his impulses and emotions," the IHBAS report said.

There was a need for prompt identification and immediate referral to mental health and looking after prisoners who have self-injurious behaviour, the report said. It added that Tihar Jail should have better management inside. All prisoners with common mental disorder should be treated at the mental health unit of the jail.

With a sanctioned capacity of 2,500 inmates, Tihar Jail houses over 8,000 undertrials and convicts making it one of the most crowded prisons in the country.