Indian Legal Approach towards Mental Illness

This article is written by Mr Anshuman Dwivedi, 1st year LLB student from Lucknow University.


Mental Illness is the most traumatic illness for any person. When an individual suffers from mental illness, one tries to attempt suicide or when suffers from mere depression. Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses that challenge in everyday life. 

There are many types of  mental illness and some of them are : 

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHC) 

  • Anxiety/ Panic disorder 

  • Bipolar Disorder 

  • Depression 

  • Schizophrenia 


There is no single cause for mental health disorders; instead, they can be caused by a mixture of biological, psychological and environmental factors. People who have a family history of mental health disorders may be more prone to developing one at some point. Changes in brain chemistry from substance abuse or changes in diet can also cause mental disorders. Psychological factors and environmental factors such as upbringing and social exposure can form the foundations for harmful thought patterns associated with mental disorders. 


The idea of mental illness, the care of the mentally ill, and the law all have a dynamic interaction [1]. The legal system in India is referred to as Indian Legal Systems. There was a unique legal tradition in ancient times, with a historically independent school of legal theory and practice. In India, the law as a subject of religious precepts and intellectual debate has a long and rich history [2]. The Arthashastra, which dates from 400 BC, and the Manusmriti, which dates from 100 AD, were both prominent treatises in India, serving as authoritative legal counsel [3]. As Rappeport points out, the court is "another house" for psychiatrists, with "distinct reasons, purposes, and rules of behaviour" [4]. While the psychiatrist's primary focus is the diagnosis of mental diseases and the patient's well-being, the court's primary concern is typically the determination of competency, dangerousness, lessened responsibility, and/or societal well-being [5]. As a result, most of the older PMI (Person with Mental Illness) legislation in India was similarly focused on these issues. However, the law enacted since the 1980s tends to place a greater emphasis on PMI rights. 

Indian Laws Regulating Treatment of Person with Mental Disorder 


When it comes to treating PMI, the relationship between psychiatry and legislation frequently comes into play. Psychiatric patients' personal liberty is frequently restricted as a result of PMI treatment. The majority of countries have laws governing the treatment of psychiatric patients. Though Ayurveda contains detailed descriptions of many mental diseases in various treatises[6], the care of the mentally sick in India's asylums is a British invention [7] . Following the British crown's acquisition of India's governance in 1858, a slew of laws were enacted in fast succession to regulate the care and treatment of mentally ill people in British India [8] .

   These statutes were : 

1. The Lunacy (Supreme Courts) Act, 1858 

2. The Lunacy (District Courts) Act, 1858 

3. The Indian Lunatic Asylum Act, 1858 (with amendments passed in 1886 and 1889) 

4. The Military Lunatic Acts, 1877.

Sections of IPC 

There's a well-established rule, “Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea”, which implies                                        that, an act doesn’t make any guilty party at risk without a blameworthy intellect. The Deliberate or     blameworthy intellect (Mens Rea ) of the guilty party is a fundamentally portion while committing a crime. The protection of madness may be a law that ensures an individual who is unable of understanding the nature of the act done by him. 

           The unsoundness of intellect ought to be of such an degree that it makes the guilty party totally bumbling in knowing the nature of the act. The calculate that the individual is enduring from a mental sickness is by itself not adequate to demonstrate that he is crazy. Beneath Indian law, the basis of craziness as a resistance is joined in Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and is based upon the “McNaghten’s Rule”. The burden of verification is continuously on the respondent, and it needs to be demonstrated past a sensible question. The Law Commission of India in its 42nd report, made an exertion to reanalyze Section 84, but no alterations were made. 

 Sections in Indian Contract Act,1872

              Concurring to Indian Contract Act, 1872, any individual of sound intellect can make a contract. Section 12 of the Act stipulates that an individual is said to be of sound intellect for the reason of making a contract, in the event that, at the time when he makes it, he is able of understanding it and of shaping a sound judgment as to its impact upon his intrigued. An individual, who is ordinarily of unsound intellect, but every so often of sound intellect, may make a contract when he is of sound intellect. A individual, who is more often than not of sound intellect, but sometimes of unsound intellect, may not make a contract when he is of unsound intellect. It implies a PMI who is as of now free of the insane side effects can make a contract, while an individual who is as of now inebriated or insane cannot make a contract. 


Mental Health Care Act, 2017 

The mental health care act, 2017 has defined mental illness as a substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgements, behaviour capacity to recognize reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life. The bill specifies the process and producer to be followed for admission, treatment and discharge of mentally ill individuals. A person with mental illness shall not be held liable. 

Rights under Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 :

  1. Rights under mental health care act, 2017 

  2. Right to make an advance directive 

  3. Right to access healthcare services 

  4. Right to free of cost healthcare services 

  5. Right to live in a community 

  6. Right to protection from cruel inhuman and degrading treatment 

  7. Right to equality and non-discrimination 

  8. Right to information 

  9. Right to legal aid and complain 

  10. Right to enter into a contract 

Indian Court's view and Judgements 

Abetment to commit suicide could be a culpable offense beneath section 306 of the Indian Penal Code. Endeavour to commit suicide was a culpable offence beneath segment 309 of the Indian Penal code sometime recently in 2014. 

Section 309 Endeavor to commit suicide whoever endeavours to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offense, should be rebuffed with straightforward detainment for a term which may expand to one year or with fine, or with both. 

The protected legitimacy of section 309 was challenged In P. Rathinam v. U.O.I and the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that the arrangement rebuffing the endeavour to commit suicide is brutal and nonsensical and is violative of article 21 of the Constitution and it merits to be effected from the statute book to humanize the penal laws.

The choice was hence overruled in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab and the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that endeavour to commit suicide is an offense and arrangements of rebuffing this offence as laid down in section 309 are not unconstitutional. 

Different aspects and effects of Mental Sickness


Marriage and Divorce 

Beneath Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, conditions in regard of mental disarranges, which must be satisfied some time recently the marriage is solemnized beneath the Act, are as follows: Neither party is unfit of giving a substantial assent as a result of unsoundness of mind. Even in the event that competent of giving assent, must not endure from mental disarranges of such a kind or to such a degree as to be unfit for marriage and the multiplication of children. Must not endure from repetitive assaults of insanity. The expression “mental disorder” implies mental ailment, captured or fragmented advancement of intellect, psychopathic clutter or any other clutter or inability of intellect and incorporates schizophrenia. The expression “psychopathic disorder” implies a tireless clutter or incapacity of the intellect (whether or not counting sub-normality of insights) which comes about in strangely forceful or genuinely reckless conduct on the portion of the other party, and whether or not it requires or is helpless to a therapeutic treatment. 


Relational unions in negation to the arrangement in regards of mental disarranges come beneath the voidable category. Voidable relational unions (sec 12) are those which may be invalidated by a proclamation of nullity on the given grounds but may proceed to be lawful till the time it is invalidated by a competent court. According to section 13 of the Act, separate or legal division can be gotten in the event that the individual has been serious of unsound intellect, or has been enduring persistently or discontinuously from mental clutter of such a kind and to such a degree that the solicitor cannot sensibly be anticipated to live with the respondent. 

Suicidal Tendency 

Self-destructive Strangulation isn't exceptionally common, in spite of the fact that now and then met with. In this case, a few contraptions is continuously made to keep the ligature light after insensibility supervenes. This can be done by turning a line a few times circular the neck and tying the tie, which more often than not single and in front or at side or back of the neck, by turning a line firmly by implies of a adhere, stone or a few other strong fabric. Such cases harm to the profound structures of the neck and mark viciousness on other parts of the body. 


Critical legitimate arrangements in regard to the PMI within the Indian legitimate framework have been talked about. As most of the laws were either surrounded by the colonial period or their root can be followed to the period, the British impact is clearly obvious. Laws in regard to the PMI are by and by on crossroads as most of them are beneath the amendment to bring them in concordance with the UNCRPD2006. Human rights activists are squeezing for legitimate capacity to PMI in supreme terms, though therapists are in favour of holding arrangements for automatic hospitalization in uncommon circumstances. It must be emphasized that the extreme point of any legitimate arrangement ought to be the welfare of the PMI and society at huge

Post a Comment