Mental health: SC deprecates practice of states to re-designate old-age homes as halfway homes
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday deprecated the practice by states of re-designating old-age homes and other custodial institutions as halfway homes for people who have been cured of mental illness saying it would not subserve the purpose of rehabilitation.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and Hima Kohli said halfway homes and rehabilitation of the cured people must take place pro-actively across the country by the states/UTs and mere re-designating the existing facilities will not serve the purpose.
The top court noted that Maharashtra has decided to issue 186 persons who were overstaying in mental health care institutions to beggars’ homes or other custodial institutions.
It said that after the issue was highlighted by the court in its previous order, a letter was written on July 21 by the chief secretary to expedite the process of shifting these persons from beggars home/old age home to half way homes.
The bench said that a note filed by the state government indicated there were a total of 415 cured patients who have over stayed in mental health institutions of which 186 were temporarily shifted to old age homes, homes for women and beggars homes, until the establishment of halfway homes and their rehabilitation takes place.
It said the note states that on July 23, 2021, a decision was taken by Maharashtra to relocate persons who have been cured of mental illness within three months after identifying and contacting NGOs working in the sector of mental health services.
It added that until the above exercise is completed, the public health department has taken the responsibility of providing requisite facilities both in terms of medical care, counselling and other requirements.
The bench said that Maharashtra has stated that the exercise of establishing halfway homes and rehabilitation homes will be completed within six months.
The modalities which have been said by the state of Maharashtra are simply pushing the cured patients from mental health care institutions to beggar homes and Old age homes. This could not amount to compliance with earlier directions of this court, the bench said.
Now that the state has woken up to its responsibilities and has taken action, we direct the process be taken to its logical conclusion by assuring that on or before November 30, the cured persons are duly placed with the institutions, which are capable of meeting with their requirement of such cured persons who are no longer mentally ill but need to be placed in halfway homes, so that their need of rehabilitation and care can be pursued, it said.
It directed that Maharashtra government should take steps to abide by the undertaking of setting up halfway homes, and rehabilitation homes within a period of six months.
Dealing with Uttar Pradesh, the bench said that the status report filed by Centre indicates that the state government has simply followed a pattern of re-designating the old age homes in each of 75 districts, as halfway homes.
Again this does not mark a valid discharge of its duties and obligations by the state government of complying with the direction of this court as well as provisions of the mental health care act, the bench said.
It said, Merely re-designating the existing homes in all the 75 districts as halfway home will only do lip service to the need of having actual half way homes where requirements of rehabilitation are duly observed .
It added that the court has highlighted the position in UP and Maharashtra to emphasise that there are two separate issues, which needs to be considered like the establishment of halfway homes and rehabilitation homes must takes place pro-actively across the country by the states/UTs and mere re-designating the existing facilities will not serve the purpose.
The ultimate task is of rehabilitation, which cannot not be subserved by merely relocating the persons, who have been cured of mental illness. In this context the guidelines which have been issued by the Centre provide a detailed blueprint for setting up the homes and for following a social care model of rehabilitation, the top court said.
We do not find any genuine progress has been made in that context though different state governments have indicated varying timelines for setting up the halfway homes, it added.
The court said it would be appropriate if the Centre monitors the progress and apprises the court periodically, so that it is not required to take up the case of each state individually for assessing the progress which has been made.
It said the Ministry of Social Welfare and Empowerment must hold meetings every month to monitor the progress of setting up of halfway homes and for the rehabilitation of persons, who are cured of mental illness in terms of the previous and the present orders of the court.
The court said the Centre may set up a dashboard in which states can upload the information on a real time basis about the facilities at halfway homes, availability of institutions, capacity, occupancy and region wise distribution of halfway homes.
It adjourned the matter for further hearing to the last week of December and asked the Centre to file a status report with all the details from the states and progress made in setting up of halfway homes.