The Delhi High Court has come up with a landmark verdict, pointing out the necessity of conforming to the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 (MHA) in relation to claims of mental illness in judicial proceedings.
The Delhi High Court was presided over by Justice Jyoti Singh and allowed a petition praying for quashing of an order passed by the trial court sentencing without addressing applications under POA and section 105 of MHA.
Procedural Obligations under Mental Healthcare Act
Importantly, the procedure envisaged under section 105 of MHA that must be followed by a competent court dealing with proofs of mental illness was highlighted by the court.
The term “shall” in section 105 indicates that it is mandatory for courts following this procedure as opposed to using their discretion.
Petitioner’s Challenge and Legal Framework
The petitioner approached the court through advocate Madhav Khurana who filed this petition under Section 482 CrPC challenging the trial court’s order.
This contention of Delhi High Court came about as a result of failure by the trial magistrate to consider applications made under Section 4 read with Section11 of the POA and Sec105of MHA.
Parliament enacted the Mental Healthcare Act in 2017 which repealed the Mental Health Act,1987.
Coming in line with India’s commitment to United Nation Convention on rights of persons with disabilities, MHA aimed at ensuring healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation for persons suffering from mental illness while protecting their rights.
Transformative Potential of the Mental Healthcare Act
The Delhi High Court reasserted that MHA has transformative potential emphasizing its right based framework. This is provided for under chapter XIII titled ‘Responsibilities of Other Agencies’.
In this Chapter there is section 105 which stipulates for procedural obligation for a competent court when evidence about mental disorder is presented during judicial process.
Section 105: A Statutory Right
Section 105 provides statutory right to those claiming mental illness as defined in Section 2(1)(s) of the Act.
According to this provision, a competent court must refer such claim to the appropriate Board defined under Section 2(1)(d) without pre-judging it.
The court found that this statutory right is not subject to any exception or discretion by the court.
Override Clause and Statutory Mandate
Section 120 of MHA, according to the Delhi High Court displaces other laws in force and therefore has overriding effect on the statute.
The court emphasized that section 105 is clear with no room for any exceptions or discretion by the court.
In this case, the petitioner moved an application under section 105 of MHA claiming mental illnesses and praying for reference to Board for assessment.
However, after preliminary hearing of arguments, trial court adjourned its decision relating to the application and directed that the matter be listed for order on sentence.
The practice of trial courts listing matters for sentence without deciding on applications under Section 105 was held by it to be contrary to MHA’s mandate.
It also ruled out considering state’s proposal which was aimed at deciding both application as well as passing sentence at once.
Additionally, Court noted that section 105 requires an assessment by Board about alleged mental illness before sentencing can be pronounced.
Delhi High Court’s Directive
Delhi High Court’s ruling directs how the trial court should handle an application made under Section 105 of MHA by a petitioner.
In its judgment, the court makes a pivotal decision which implies that allegations of mental illness are to be handled with the highest caution and adherence to the statutory procedures outlined in the Mental Healthcare Act.
In conclusion, this major development that takes place in Delhi High Court upholds the commitment to safeguarding the rights of those suffering from mental disorders.
By putting more emphasis on the obligatory nature of processes described in section 105 of Mental Health Care Act, this means that competent courts must follow due process whenever they receive claims of mental illness during their judicial proceedings.
This verdict will have far-reaching consequences for legal approach to mental health issues in India which is congruent with global efforts aimed at acknowledging and promoting rights of persons with mental disabilities.