The Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, tabled in the Rajya Sabha this week decriminalises suicide and lays down that a person attempting suicide should be treated for mental illness.
Section 124 of the Bill states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 309 of the IPC, any person who attempts suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be suffering from mental illness at the time of the bid and shall not be liable to punishment under the said Section.”
The new Bill also delineates rights of a mentally ill person to protection from cruelty, confidentiality, information, legal aid, mental healthcare and most importantly, his/her right to equality and non-discrimination. This is a change from the Mental Health Act of 1987 and in tune with UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India has ratified. It makes the central and state governments responsible for planning and execution of an effective mental health programme.
The Bill requires all mental health establishments, mental health personnel and also those treating mental health afflictions with traditional methods of medicine to be registered with the Central Mental Health Authority. It will replace the Mental Health Act of 1987.