Patna: The Patna High Court has slammed the Bihar Government alleging that the mental health of people and their treatment appears to be the ‘least priority’ of the government, and directed the chief secretary to take all steps to ensure the establishment of a State Mental Health Authority. A division bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar, expressed shock over the absence of such an authority in the state.
‘It appears that mental health of a person and treatment of those who are in need, more so during the time of Covid-19, is the least priority of the state government’, the bench said. It was hearing a public interest litigation, filed by Akanksha Maviya, which sought direction from the court to the state government to establish a legitimate and functional mental health authority with adherence to the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 and start a helpline and counselling facilities. The government had earlier submitted an affidavit on the issue as sought by the bench.
The Act deals with the establishment and composition of the state authority for people with mental illness. The purpose of the law is to provide healthcare services to them and to protect, promote and fulfil their rights. The bench noticed that a ‘step for establishing the authority commenced only in 2020, that too, with the publication of an advertisement in the newspaper and since then nothing has been done to expedite the process’. It also observed that even the affidavit did not disclose the time limit within which the process of setting up the mental health authority would be completed.
‘Shockingly, as is now evident from the affidavit filed by the state, the said authority has yet not been constituted….we are constrained to direct the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar, to forthwith take all steps ensuring establishment of the authority as stipulated under Section-45 of the Act’, the bench said in its order on February 10. It also directed the chief secretary to file an affidavit of compliance, indicating the latest status before February 25, the next date of hearing. ‘We also expect the Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar to indicate the steps taken for complying with the other provisions of the Statute, the deficiencies pointed out by the petitioner in the writ petition, and the suggestion given for proper and effective implementation’, the bench added.