Published on: 04 December 2022 at 21:51 IST
In the Bombay High Court chided the Maharashtra government for the regrettable state of affairs regarding the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act.
A bench composed of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Gauri Godse deemed it necessary to issue directions to the State Mental Health Authority in order to in still a sense of urgency for the upcoming tasks because of the gravity of the responsibilities placed on it.
In its order, the Bench emphasized that the authority had not been operational until the State was given the order to do so in August of this year.
According to the order, “in this regrettable state of affairs, it has become necessary for us to issue directions to the authority and the State, highlighting the gravity of the duties imposed upon them under the Act and to instill a sense of urgency for the tasks ahead”
The directions were issued as a result of a public interest lawsuit that brought to light the serious problems caused by the state of Maharashtra’s failure to implement the Mental Healthcare Act.
The Court was informed that the State Mental Health Authority was required to meet at least four times per year under Section 56 of the Act.
However, the authority remained inactive until August 2022, as was pointed out.
The authority was only formed following the directions of the Court, and its first meeting took place in September.
Given that this was the authority’s first meeting, the Court anticipated that it would address more general issues brought up by the Act of 2017’s implementation. However, there were no such issues in the meeting’s submitted minutes.
The Bench also said that the minutes didn’t show what the authority’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) had done to run the work programs and make annual accounts of income and expenses.
The Court stated, “Since this was the only meeting to be held this year after a long time, to use the mildest expression, the manner in which the meeting was conducted is superficial.”
Additionally, the Bench noted that the minutes mentioned a decision to open a bank account in the authority’s name, as required by the Act. The account was supposed to get money from the state government to help it work and run different programs.
The Court, on the other hand, was unable to find any explanation for how the authority functioned without the bank account or statutory fund that were necessary for its operation.
In light of these factors, the Bench requested a number of reports from the authority’s CEO, asking him to record the work plan and a statement of the bank account, which would include the approved budget, among other things.
In accordance with the Act, the Secretary of the Public Health Department of Maharashtra was also instructed to record the specifics of the task performed by the appropriate government.
The Court did not comply with Additional Government Pleader Manish Pabale‘s request for additional time to record the affidavit.
“We would have normally considered this request, but given that what is directed are statutory requirements, we are not inclined to grant a longer period. Only the annexes are required if the Statutory Reports have already been prepared and submitted.”
We note that the provisional form of the statutory reports should be recorded if they have not yet been prepared. However, the information must be recorded by the designated date, the Bench ordered.
Additionally, the Court expressed the hope that the Secretary and others would respond seriously and not create a circumstance to secure their presence in the Court.
On December 21, the Bench scheduled a second hearing on the matter.