A division bench comprising Justice N Kirubakaran and Justice B Pugalendhi quoted a World Health Organisation (WHO) report that said every seventh person in India suffered from some form of mental illness and expressed strong reservation over very negligible allocation for mental health.
The bench pointed out that it was reported in the Parliament in March that a mere Rs 48 crore had been spent on 15 crore affected persons during 2018-2019, which works out to just 20 paise per month per patient.
There was only about only 9,000 psychiatrists available, or one psychiatrist for every one lakh population, while the required number was three for every lakh population, the court noted. “This has led to a shortage of 18,000 mental health doctors or psychiatrists, and our country requires about 2,700 new psychiatrists every year. That apart, there are only 49 child psychiatrists in the entire country,” the bench led by Justice Kirubakaran said quoting reports.
Also, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, remained merely on paper and that National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) – established way back in 1925 – remains the only mental research centre in the country, the court said, recommending similar institutions in every zone.
“Psychiatry should be introduced in every medical college as the requirement of psychiatrists is more. Moreover, only a negligible number of mental hospitals are stated to be functioning in the country and for 130-crore population, a greater number of mental health care centres have to be established by the governments,” the court stressed.
The bench made these observations while expanding the scope of a PIL that sought to direct the State to set up a medical wing either in Tiruchy or Madurai Central Prison exclusively for prisoners with mental illness.
On suo motu impleading Union Ministry of Family and Health Welfare, Ministry of Finance, National Medical Commission (NMC), UGC, NIMHANS, Indian Psychiatric Society as respondents in the case, the court sought them to respond to a volley of questions raised by it on augmenting mental health care in India. The case will be heard further on December 9.