Free Press Journal

Shackled by mental health issues, inmates have nowhere to go


Mumbai : There are no full-time psychiatrists across jails and borstals in Maharashtra, which is a pre-requisite as per the prison manual and the Mental Health Care Act, 2017. The violation of the Act results in neglect of the mental health of prisoners.

According to Dipak Chattopadhyay, an advocate at the Bombay High Court, “Section 330 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, empowers the court to release an accused on bail upon satisfaction of certain set criteria, but also suggests that where bail cannot be granted, it must order the accused to be kept in such a place where regular psychiatric treatment can be provided. If implemented, this would mean that mentally ill prisoners can no longer be kept inside a prison. The National Legal Services Authority’s (NALSA) Scheme for mentally ill persons too supports the intent of Section 330, inasmuch as it directs state legal services authorities to carry out inspections in all jails with the assistance of state mental health authorities. These checks seek to ascertain whether there are mentally ill persons in prisons and if such persons are there, the legal services authorities must seek directions to shift them out for treatment.”

As per Section 103 of the Mental Heath Care Act, the government should set up a mental health establishment in the medical wing of at least one prison in each state, where prisoners could be referred to and cared for. The Act also states that the prison medical officer shall send a quarterly report to the Urban Trial Review Committee (UTRC) certifying that the prison houses no prisoners with mental illness.

There are four types of criminal offenders. The first type are the first-time offenders who impulsively commit crimes. After committing the crime, they feel guilty and become upset. Repeat offenders are hardcore criminals. They get released on bail and due to their tendency to commit crimes, they keep coming back to jail. They are difficult to tackle. The third type are gangsters — from D-gang, Chhota Rajan gang, Ravi Pujari gang etc. The fourth category is that of Very Important Persons (VIPs).

According to psychiatrist  Dr Harish Shetty, “Once a gangster told me, “Main tumhaare liye free main khoon karoonga.” The statement underlines the fact that they are hardcore criminals and it is extremely difficult for jail staff as well as visiting  psychiatrists to tackle them. They have a very good network and are supported by politicians, other gangsters, jail staff and other prisoners, who are lobbying for them — for good food, health care and other additional benefits inside the jail.”

 According to Rajvardhan Sinha, Inspector General of Prisons, Maharashtra,”There are no full-time psychiatrists across all jails in Maharashtra and across the country too. It is not feasible to appoint full-time psychiatrists. We have psychiatrists who visit once a week to attend to the prisoners.”