HC asks State to provide sufficient stay homes for people with mental illness

The Delhi High Court has asked the State to provide for sufficient number of long stay and short stay homes for people with mental illnesses who do not require regular hospitalisation but have no homes to go back to live in a safe and pleasant environment.

The high court said it is the bounden duty of the State to take care of the lives of all its citizens, and asked the authorities to take adequate care of a woman convict, suffering from schizophrenia, and such other patients.

The judgment is part of 65 verdicts delivered by separate division benches headed by Justice Mukta Gupta, a day before her retirement. She is retiring from the Delhi High Court on Tuesday at the age of 62 years.

“It is hoped and expected that in terms of the directions of this court in the State will ensure sufficient number of short stay homes and long stay homes for people with mental illness who do not require regular hospitalisation and who have no homes to go back to live in a safe, congenial and pleasant environment,” a bench of Justices Gupta and Poonam A Bamba said in a 70-page judgment.

The bench was dealing with an appeal filed by the woman challenging her conviction and life sentence for killing her husband. She was also held guilty of causing grievous injuries to her step daughter who later died.

During the trial, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had to undergo treatment as an outdoor patient at Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS).

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. The disease may cause hallucinations, delusions, and disorderly thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning, and can be disabling.

She was arrested in September 2005 and her treatment at IHBAS started in May 2009. The trial court convicted her of offences under Sections 302 (murder) and 326 (causing grievous hurt) of IPC on August 21, 2010 which she challenged before the high court.

The high court modified the woman’s conviction from murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. It, however, upheld her conviction for causing grievous hurt to her step daughter.

The high court commuted the sentence of life imprisonment to 12 years in jail.

As per the nominal roll, the brief history of a convict, the woman has served 18 years in jail. Taking note, the court held she has already undergone the sentence awarded to her for the offences.

The high court took note of the medical report of IHBAS which said according to her latest evaluation on February 20, her paranoid schizophrenia is in remission and she is fit to defend herself. It proceeded to hear her appeal on merits after granting an opportunity to her lawyer to visit her at the half way home at IHBAS.

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The bench said, “It is the bounden duty of the State to take care of the life of all its citizens. Since the appellant is not in a position to take care of herself, even though the schizophrenia is in remission at the moment, nor does any of her family members is inclined to look after her, it is the duty of the State to take adequate care of (woman) and such other patients, for which purpose the short/ long stay homes have been set up.”

It also said the woman will continue to stay in the long stay home at IHBAS and expenses towards her treatment and stay will be borne by the State.

The bench ordered that a copy of the judgment be also sent to Delhi government’s Principal Secretary (Home) and Principal Secretary (Health), Director General (Prisons) and Medical Superintendent, IHBAS for necessary compliance.

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