delhi high court

Delhi High Court: A petition was filed by minor, through her father seeking directions to the respondent authorities for implementation of provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 and its accompanying rules in educational institutions, specifically at the school and collegiate level. A division bench of Satish Chandra Sharma, CJ., and Subramonium Prasad, J., dismissed PIL considering the measures taken by the authorities concerned towards the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

The petitioner, placing reliance on various documents and survey reports (Mental Healthcare Survey), has highlighted the myriad of issues pertaining to mental health and the lack of requisite institutional infrastructure to tackle with rising instances of mental health-related cases prevalent in students at the school and college going demographic in the NCT of Delhi. The petitioner seeks to direct the Respondents to constitute the mental health establishment as per the Chapter X read with Section 2(p) of the Mental Healthcare Act in each district, school, and college of the district, mandating the presence of clinical psychiatrists, counsellors, social workers, and mental health professionals in each school and college of the district and implement the National Mental Health programme as formulated along with awareness and promotion of mental health of students in each school and college.

The petitioner submitted that due to growing incidents of mental illness amongst school and college- going students, the Government of India introduced Mental Healthcare Bill, 2013 in order to curb the number of rising cases of mental illnesses such as stress, anxiety, fear, panic, depression, insomnia, isolation, disconnectedness, loneliness, trauma, lack of self-confidence, positivity and resilience etc. Thus, in order to ensure healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with mental illness as well as to protect and promote the rights of persons with mental illness during the delivery of healthcare, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 was enacted to protect and promote the rights of persons with mental illness and to ensure that healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation services be provided to persons with mental illness at mental health institutions.

The Court issued a notice and sought a status report. As per the status report submitted by respondent 1, the Institute of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences (IHBAS) is a government-controlled apex tertiary care neuro-psychiatric institute dealing with cases pertaining to mental health care in the state of Delhi. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi with its three divisions as well as Cantonment Board schools and the New Delhi Municipal Centre have schools under their control that are already taking preventive steps through conducting tests and identifying potential cases as well as raising awareness about mental health issues for children. At the collegiate level, the Delhi Government has been conducting awareness programs and cases requiring further treatment are referred to centres in Delhi.

A perusal of the Status Report further showed that there are 7 multi-speciality hospitals, 7 hospitals extending treatment for deaddiction facilities, 31 registered private mental health establishments, 5 District Mental Health Program Clinics in sub-districts of New Delhi (Chattarpur, Jehangiripuri, Timarpur, Dwarka, Moti Nagar) offering mental health treatment to all age groups, 72 substance use disorder treatment and rehabilitation centres across districts of Delhi as per Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

The Status Report also makes mention of the School Health Scheme implemented by the Director General of Health Services under the aegis of Respondent 1. The School Health Scheme seeks to incorporate mental health as a component in the general health assessment of children. Further, there are 388 Educational and Vocational Guidance Counsellors (EVGC’s) in 1029 schools spread across sub-districts and functioning under the Department of Education of Respondent No. 1, who are tasked with increasing the identification and screening of prevalent mental health issues amongst school going children.

Thus, the Court passed no further orders considering the information provided in the Status Report and the measures taken by the authorities concerned towards the implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.

[Devina Singh v GNCTD, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 3818, decided on 03-07-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Ms. Sonia Mathur, Sr. Advocate with Ms. Ronika Tater, Ms. Pratiksha Mishra, Mr. Rahul Kumar, Ms. Rupakshi Soni, Mr. Nikhil Chandra Jaiswal and Mr. Simarjeet Singh Saluja, Advocates for petitioner

Mr. Tushar Sannu, Standing Counsel with Mr. Yash Singh and Mr. Abhishek Singh, Advocates with Mr. Amit Khanna, Associate Professor for Respondent/ IBHAS.

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