Mental health and laws in India

Mental Health and Laws in India


Nevertheless, according to the World Health Organization , mental health is “a state of well-being in which each individual realizes their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life , can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to their community.”

Mental health refers to your wellbeing both emotionally and psychologically. Having good mental health helps you lead a relatively happy and healthy life. This lets you show endurance and the strength to deal with the adversities of life.

Types of Mental Disorder

  • Bipolar syndrome

Bipolar disorder is a persistent psychiatric condition that every year impacts around 2.6 per cent of Americans. It is characterized by episodes of extreme, manic and energetic, sometimes depressive lows.

Such can influence the energy level of a individual, and the capacity to properly think. Mood fluctuations triggered by bipolar disorder are far more serious than the tiny ups and downs that most people undergo every day.

  • Durable depressive condition

Another recurring form of depression is recurrent depressive illness. It’s sometimes called dysthymia. While dysthymic depression isn’t serious, it can interfere with daily life. People with this condition have experienced symptoms for a minimum of two years.

  • Comprehensive anxiety condition

Generalized anxiety disorder ( GAD), like being nervous before a presentation, goes beyond regular everyday anxiety. It induces a individual to be highly nervous about certain issues, even though there is little to no need to care about them.

Those with GAD may be very nervous as to get through the day. They might think that things will never work in their favour. Sometimes worrying can prevent people with GAD from performing their daily tasks and chores.

Mental Health Symptoms

Every kind of mental illness is causing its own symptoms. But others share those specific features.

Popular symptoms of multiple mental disorders may include:

  • Not enough to eat or overeat
  • Getting fatigue, or not much night
  • Distancing yourself from people and favorite hobbies
  • Feeling exhausted sometimes though you get enough
  • Feeling numb or devoid of empathy
  • Feel severe body discomfort or ailment
  • Felt destitute, powerless or afraid
  • Tobacco, smoking or more than likely consuming illegal substances
  • Feeling confused, forgetful, irritable, angry, anxious, sad or scared

Indian Legal system and Mental Health

Indian Legal Systems applies to the Indian operating legal structure. There was a distinct history of law in the ancient days and had a traditionally separate school of law theory and practice. Law as a matter of religious prescriptions and philosophical discourse has an illustrious history in India.[1] The Arthashastra dating back to 400 BC and the Manusmriti from 100 AD were influential treatises in India, texts considered authoritative legal guidance.

The central philosophy of Manu was tolerance and pluralism and was cited throughout Southeast Asia. Sharia law came to India during Islamic rule but that applied mainly to the Muslim population. When India was part of the British Empire, the custom breaked and the common law supplanted Hindu and Islamic rules. As a result, the country’s current judicial system is largely derived from the British system and has little correlation with pre-British institutions.[2]

Many of the contemporary Indian laws are largely based on English Common Law, a system of law based on recorded judicial precedents, and exhibit substantial European and American influence, as well as many of the laws introduced by the British. And the origins of several regulations about people with mental illnesses (PMI) can be traced back to the British times.

There is a dynamic relationship between the concept of mental illness, the treatment of the mentally ill and the law.[1] As Rappeport pointed out, for the psychiatrists, the court is “another house … with its various motives, goals and rules of conduct[2].  While the psychiatrist is primarily concerned with the diagnosis of mental disorders and the welfare of the patient, the court is often mainly concerned with the court. Hence, much of the earlier PMI law has also been dealing with these issues of India. However, legislation drafted after the eighties also tends to put some emphasis on PMI ‘s rights.

India’s constitution

According to Article 21, the Constitution of India provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal freedom except as provided for by law. According to this post, the right to life and personal rights requires “facilities for reading , writing and communicating oneself in different ways, roaming openly, interacting and coming with fellow human beings”.

According to the Representation of People Act, 1950 (sec 16), if an individual is of unsound mind and so found by a competent judge, he is ineligible for registration in an electoral roll. Therefore, under the Constitution, the person so ineligible cannot hold public offices such as president, vice-president, ministers or national and state legislatures.

Indian laws governing treatment of mentally disordered persons

Relationship between medicine and law falls into play more frequently as PMI is being handled. Treatment of PMI frequently requires curtailing psychiatric patient’s personal independence. Many of the world’s nations have regulations governing mental medical care. While in numerous treatises in Ayurveda there are detailed explanations of specific types of psychiatric disorders, the treatment of mentally disturbed persons in asylum in India is a British innovation.[3] There were rules

  • The Lunacy Act of 1858 (Supreme Courts)
  • The Lunacy Act, 1858 (District Courts)
  • Indian Lunatic Asylum Act, 1858 (with amendments introduced in 1886 and 1889)
  • The Lunatic Legal Actions of 1877;

These Acts gave guidelines for establishing mental asylum and admission procedures for mental patients. The British scene which existed in the mid-19th century served in India as the backdrop for lunacy laws in that era. The numerous 1858 Acts inevitably represented the legislative system for treating the mentally ill[4]. Within the first decade of the 20th century, popular consciousness of the pitiful conditions in psychiatric institutions was accentuated as part of the Indian intelligentsia ‘s increasing political knowledge and nationalist views[5].

As a consequence, the 1912 Indian Lunacy Act was passed. Psychiatry ‘s fate in India was driven by the 1912 Act.[10] Lunatic asylums (in 1922 renamed psychiatric hospitals) were now controlled and monitored by a central authority. Admission and evaluation protocols in this respect is well established. This added the requirement of reciprocal entry. Nevertheless, the biggest tension was to discourage people from endangering psychiatric disorders and to insure that no normal person is admitted to such asylums. In these clinics psychologists have been named as full-time staff.

The Act also provided provisions for judicial inquisitions of mentally ill persons. After World War II the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950 the Indian Psychological Society tabled a new Mental Health Bill to amend the obsolete ILA-1912. After a long and protracted course, the Mental Health Act (MHA-87) was finally enacted in 1987. The principal features of the Act are follows.

  • Increasingly identifying psychiatric disorder and incorporating a new definition to its diagnosis of emphasis on rehabilitation and recovery, rather than detention.
  • Creation of a Central / State Mental Health Agency to oversee and supervise psychiatric hospitals / nursing homes and inform the mental wellbeing problems of the Central / State governments.
  • Admission to psychiatric hospital / nursing homes under special circumstances. Voluntary entry and registration requirements were maintained on the receipt papers.
  • The position of police and magistrate in coping with cruelly handled cases involving roaming PMI and PMI.
  • PMI’s defense of human rights.
  • PMI Property Assurance and Management.

Disabled people (equal opportunity, freedoms security and complete participation) Act, 1995


In 1995, PDA-95 was implemented to eradicate inequality in exchanging educational resources with non-disabled people, and to discourage violence and neglect of individuals with disabilities (PWD). It provided for a barrier-free environment and outlined government responsibilities to plan strategies for comprehensive development programs, to provide special provision for PWD ‘s integration into the social mainstream.

PDA-95, categorizes mental retardation and psychiatric disorder as deficiency disorders. The PMI also has the right to benefits applicable to PWD as provided for under the Act. There is a quota of 3 percent of government employment, but the PMI does not have that open. In the context of UNCRPD-2006, this Act is still actually under review.

National Trust Act-1999

This Act was enacted in 1999 for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities to enable and empower them to live as independently and as close to the community they belong to, and to facilitate the realization of equal opportunities and the protection of rights. The Act calls for other steps related to health. This Act is also being revised to make it compliant with UNCRPD-2006 and make it more comprehensive. PMI property maintenance is to be protected under the amended Legislation.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities-2006 and Indian law

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities-2006 and Indian Legislation

In December 2006, UNCRPD was adopted. It had been adopted by the Indian Parliament in May 2008. Countries which have signed and ratified UNCRPD are required to harmonize their laws and policies with it. Therefore, all the legislation pertaining to disability in India are presently under study. The convention represents a philosophical change from a concern for social services to a topic of civil dignity with regard to disabilities. The modern philosophy is focused on the principle of capacity, equity and fairness in law.

PWD must have legitimate potential on an equitable footing across all facets of existence according to Article 2 of the convention. Article 3 calls on the State to take appropriate measures to provide the exercise of legal capacity by PWD with access to support. Article 4 calls for safeguards to avoid abuse of the support system required by PWD. There is no clear prohibition on coercive interference at UNCRPD, but the Convention does not provide for mandatory mental health treatment

Laws on Indian contracts

Any person of sound mind can enter into a contract according to the Indian Contract Act , 1872. Section 12 of the Act stipulates that a person is considered to be of sound mind for the purpose of contracting a contract if he is capable of understanding it and making a fair decision as to its effect on his interest at the moment he creates it. A guy, who is usually of unhealthy mind but sometimes of sound mind, may make a contract when he is of sound mind.

A person, who is usually of sound mind but sometimes of unhealthy mind, may not make a contract when he is of unhealthy mind. It means a PMI currently free of psychotic symptoms can enter into a contract, whereas a person currently intoxicated or delirious cannot enter into a contract.

Criminal Liability

The Indian Penal Code of 1860 notes that “Nothing is an crime perpetrated by a individual who, at the time of doing so, is incapable of understanding the meaning of the act or of doing what is either incorrect or contrary to the statute.” McNaghten Rules describe the civil liability of mentally impaired persons in our courts and have been inserted into Sec 84.[6]

The Supreme Court has held that the law presumes that every person of age of discretion needs to be proven to be sane and defense on grounds of insanity. If defense is established on the grounds of insanity, such persons are committed to the Psychiatric Hospitals as provided for in Section 471(i) of the Cr . P.C. 1973. On account of mental illness there have been instances of lesser sentence. Where a woman (accused) fell into a well with her children when the feeling of life became overwhelming owing to domestic quarrels, the only punishment that could be imposed was the shorter life imprisonment penalty (AIR 1953 MB 61).

Section 89 of the IPC provides protection for any action carried out in good faith for the benefit of an unsound minded person by or with the consent of the guardian or other person having the rightful charge of that person. Sec 305, Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for death penalty or life imprisonment for suicide abetment by an insane person.


Important legal provisions relating to PMI have been discussed in the Indian legal system. Thanks to the fact that much of the legislation were either enacted during the colonial era or their roots can be tracked back to that time, British interference is evident. PMI regulations are still on the crossroad, since several of them are being amended to get them into line with UNCRPD-2006.

Human rights advocates are encouraging PMI to provide legislative power in general terms, while under particular cases physicians are in favour of maintaining allowance for accidental hospitalisation. It should be stressed that the ultimate goal of any legal provision should be the welfare of the PMI and of society as a whole.


[1] Nambi S. Forensic psychiatry revisited. Indian J Psychiatry. 2010;52:S306–8

[2] Rappeport JR. Ethics and forensic psychiatry. In: Bloch S, Chodaff P, editors. Psychiatric Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1981.

[3] Sharma S, Varma LP. History of mental hospitals in Indian sub-continent. Indian J Psychiatry. 1984;26:295–300.

[4] Somasundaram O. The Indian lunacy act, 1912: The historic background. Indian J Psychiatry. 1987;29:3–14.]

[5] Banerjee G. The Law and Mental Health: An Indian Perspective. 2001. [Last accessed 2012 Jun 21]. .

[6] Somasundaram O. Guilty But Insane: Some Aspects of Psychotic Crimes. Indian J Psychiatry. 1960:80–5.

Author: Arvind Bhati,
Lloyd law college 3rd year student

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