Mental Health Care Bill - 2013: Civil Services Mentor Magazine - March 2014


The Union Cabinet approved the amendments in the Mental Health Care Bill with an aim to empower people suffering from mental illness and to protect their rights. The Mental Health Care Bill 2013 was introduced in Rajya Sabha in August 2013 and was sent to Parliamentary Standing Committee, which recommended some amendments.

The new bill seeks to decriminalise suicide and make access to affordable mental health care a right for all. This is the first time in India, that a bill that seeks to decremanlise acts of suicide by linking it to the state of mental health of the person attempting the act has been presented in the Rajya Sabha and approved by the Cabinet. As per the Bill People suffering from mental health attempting suicide would be treated as mentally ill and therefore the act will be exempted from the provisions of Section 309 of Indian Penal Code.

This bill has fulfilled the gap in the mental health law in the country after India Ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that requires hormonisation in its laws with those prevalent worldwide. The convention was signed by India on 1 October 2007 and it came into force from 3 May 2008. Now the Bill needs to be passed by the Parliament and further assented by the President to replace the Mental Health Act of 1987.

The key features of the Bill are:

  • Rights of persons with mental illness: Every person shall have the right to access mental health care and treatment from services run or funded by the government. The right to access mental health care includes affordable, good quality of and easy access to services. Persons with mental illness also have the right to equality of treatment, protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, free legal services, access to their medical records, and complain regarding deficiencies in provision of mental health care.

  • Advance Directive: A mentallyill person shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he wants to be treated for the illness during a mental health situation and who his nominated representative shall be. The advance directive has to be certified by a medical practitioner or registered with the Mental Health Board. If a mental health professional/ relative/care-giver does not wish to follow the directive while treating the person, he can make an application to the Mental Health Board to review/alter/cancel the advance directive.

  • Central and State Mental Health Authority: These are administrative bodies are required to (a) register, supervise and maintain a register of all mental health establishments,(b) develop quality and service provision norms for such establishments, (c) maintain a register of mental health professionals, (d) train law enforcement officials and mental health professionals on the provisions of the Act, (e) receive complaints about deficiencies in provision of services, and (f) advise the government on matters relating to mental health.

  • Mental Health Establishments: Every mental health establishment has to be registered with the relevant Central or State Mental Health Authority. In order to be registered, the establishment has to fulfill various criteria prescribed in the Bill.


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