The Bombay High Court expressed regret for the situation regarding Maharashtra’s failure to execute the Mental Healthcare Act.
When the Petition came up on board on 23 August 2022, it transpired that the State Mental Health Authority under section 45 of the Act itself was not functioning. Therefore the State was directed to make the Authority functional.
After that, the Petition was adjourned to enable the Authority to hold a meeting. Then the court was informed by the Advocate General that though the Authority held a meeting on 16 September 2022, minutes were not ready till that date (for two months).
Thereafter it adjourned the Petition at the request of the Advocate General directing that the copy of the minutes be filed in advance. The Advocate General is not present, and the AGP has tendered minutes of the meeting held by the State Mental Health Authority on 16 September 2022, along with a summary, in the Court.
The division bench of Justice Gauri Godse and Justice Nitin Jamdar observed that under Section 56 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, the State Mental Health Authority has to meet no less than four times a year.
The court, while considering that till August 2022, the Authority itself was not functional and that it was the Authority’s first meeting this year, it had expected the Authority to deal with wider issues emerging from enforcing the Act of 2017.
It was noted by the court that there is no reference to the same. There is no reference to the tasks of the Chief Executive Officer, such as drawing up the proposal for the State Authority’s work programmes, whether the Officer has prepared the statement of revenue and expenditure and the execution of the budget of the State Authority. There is no reference to the Chief Executive Officer submitting a general report covering all the activities of the Authority in the previous year, programmes of work, the annual accounts for the previous year, and the budget for the coming year.
The bench issued directions to the Authority and the State, highlighting the gravity of the duties imposed upon them under the Act and to inculcate a sense of urgency for the tasks ahead.
The court directed the Chief Executive Officer of the Respondent State Authority to Place the details of the State Mental Health Authority Fund as to when it was created, what is the sum available in the Fund and whether it is adequate for its functioning and performance of the Act; To prepare a proposal for a work programme as per Section 53(1)(c) of the Act; To prepare a statement of revenue and expenditure and the budget of the Authority as per Section 53 of the Act; To prepare a general report covering all activities of the Authorities in the previous year per Section 53 of the Act; To prepare the schedule of programmes of work and budget for the coming year for approval of the Authority per Section 53 of the Act; To prepare a report in terms of Rule 10 of the Rules of 2018 as per Form A appended.
It was further directed that the Chief Executive Officer will deal with the grievance that the case which gave rise to this Public Interest Litigation finds no reference in the minutes.
Case title: Dr. Harish Shetty v/s The State of Maharashtra
Citation: Public interest litigation no. 43 of 2022