The Bombay High Court recently in the case of Dr Harish Shetty v Maharashtra & Ors. found that the Maharashtra government lamented the situation in implementing provisions of the Mental Health Care Act, of 2017.
The two-judge bench of Nitin Jamdar and Gauri Godse noted the seriousness of the obligations placed on state mental health services (boards) and instructed them to bring urgency to future mental health services. The bench emphasized in the order that the agency itself was non-functional until August of this year when the state was ordered to put it into operation. This dire situation has made it necessary to give direction to the authorities and the state, highlight the seriousness of the obligations imposed by law and instil a sense of urgency for the challenges ahead. The order came amid a public interest lawsuit highlighting serious problems in the state of Maharashtra and its failure to enforce its mental health care law.
The court was told that Section 56 of the Mental Healthcare Act requires state mental health agencies to meet at least four times a year. However, as of August 2022, it has been pointed out that the agency is not functioning. Only following a court order was the reason the institution was established and held its first meeting session in September.
As this was its first meeting, the court expected the agency to address broader issues arising from the implementation of the 2017 law. However, the minutes of the meeting filed with the court did not contain such problems. The bench also pointed out that the minutes do not show the responsibilities of the agency's CEO in carrying out work programs and preparing financial statements of income and expenditure.
The Court also noted that the minutes were related to its decision to open bank accounts on behalf of the authorities, as required by law. This account was supposed to receive funds from the state government for its operation and implementation of various programs. However, the court found no explanation for how the institution functioned without bank accounts or assets that the law mandates to operate. In light of this, Bench requested several reports from the CEO of the institution and asked him to record bank statements, including the work program to be carried out, the authorized budget, etc. The secretary of the Maharashtra Ministry of Health was also instructed to take minutes on details of the duties carried out by relevant governments under the law.
Although the additional government pleader, Manish Papale, asked for time to file an affidavit, the court did not grant the motion. The court also hoped the secretaries would take it seriously and not cause trouble. The matter was reserved for further hearing on 21st December 2022.
Refer to the following case for more details- Dr Harish Shetty v Maharashtra & Ors.