The Delhi High Court has agreed to examine a legal question as to whether the laws on disabilities and mental healthcare are applicable on persons suffering from mental illness.
Justice V K Rao sought response from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital on applicability of three Acts — Mental Healthcare Act, 2017; the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and National Trust for Welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999 — on people suffering from mental illness.
It also asked the authorities to inform as to whether the appointment of a guardian for mentally ill persons is covered under the provisions of these three Acts.
The issue cropped up before the court when a man filed a petition for appointing him guardian of his 48-year-old sister, who is suffering from Schizophrenia, so that family pension and other consequential benefits could be granted to her.
Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder and its symptoms include hallucinations and disorganised thoughts.
The plea claimed that the government and other authorities have failed to consider that guardianship certificate as required by them for processing the request for providing family pension and other benefits to the woman, in view of person permanent mental condition, in the name of her siblings is not contemplated by any law.
The plea was referring to the Guardians and Wards Act, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, Mental Healthcare Act, the Persons with Disability (equal opportunity, protection of rights and full participation) Act and National Trust for Welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act.
Advocate Prabhsahay Kaur, who was appointed amicus curiae to examine this aspect, told the court there is no manner of doubt that schizophrenia falls with the scope of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
Under the said Act, the woman may nominate the petitioner no.1 (her brother) on paper under her signature or thumb impression, as her representative.
She said the three Acts are applicable on persons suffering from mental illness and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and National Trust for Welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act cover the aspect of appointment of guardian.
“There is also no doubt that schizophrenia falls in the ambit of The Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 and Delhi Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2018. As a result thereof, an appropriate application may be made to the district court for appointment of a Limited Guardian under the Act.
“The Limited Guardian will have a tenure of three years that may be extended by way of an application in the same manner and has all the powers of a Guardian, with the caveat that the woman will be taken into confidence and consulted on all matters,” she said in her submissions.
Kaur said it was unfortunate that in addition to caring for his sister who needs a high level of care, attention and financing her medical needs, the brother has had to run from pillar to post to be appointed as a Guardian, especially as he is already a blood relative.