GHC Grants Prison Mental Health Review Boards Time Until March

Guwahati: The Assam government has been given time until March by the Gauhati High Court to ensure that committees and review boards for mental health are operating effectively in monitoring the circumstances of prisoners lodged in jails.

A division bench of Chief Justice RM Chhaya and Justice Soumitra Saikia instructed the state government to make all necessary preparations for the boards to begin operating on April 1 when hearing a public interest lawsuit.

An order from the high court said, “…the respondent authorities are granted time till 31.03.2023 to complete the process and also to allot necessary budgetary provisions for the same so that the Mental Health Review Boards and Committees start functioning effectively from 01.04.2023.”

The bench said the Mental Health Act, 1987 and the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 were neither implemented nor followed in the prisons of the state, particularly the Morigaon district jail, a PTI report stated.

The court directed that mental health review boards in each district should submit their reports to the high court.

”…if any discrepancy is found, the same shall be brought to the notice of the respective Boards for effective implementation of the provisions of the Acts,” it said.

The bench remarked that petitioner “Studio Nilima: Collaborative Network for Research and Capacity Building” had presented examples of non-implementation of the provisions of the two statutes and underlined that mentally ill inmates are held with normal inmates in the jails.

The administration informed the court that these boards and committees need earmarked budgets, which are now being considered and will be submitted for approval to the state cabinet.

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