A Delhi-based human rights lawyer has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Supreme Court for the release and rehabilitation of 70 inmates at a mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh, some of who have remained confined in the hospital since last 20 years despite being certified "mentally fit" by the doctors.
"The simple reason why nobody has turned up to take these fully recovered patients is that their family doesn't want them back. There's a social stigma attached to it. That's why their families have deserted them," lawyer Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who filed the PIL on Monday, told ScoopWhoop.
Bansal, who came to know about the condition of inmates through a news report, first filed three RTI applications in three mental hospitals of Uttar Pradesh. He also filed an application in the National Human Rights Commission to ascertain whether any of its members visited the hospital or not.
However, a personal visit to Bareilly Mental hospital made the picture clear.
"I prepared a list of 70 inmates and also interviewed some of them. All of them are mentally sound and as normal as other human beings. They told me their names, address, profession etc. Some even speak good English," Bansal said, while recalling his visit to the hospital early this month.
Citing Supreme Court's various rulings that observed that the Right to Life includes "right to live with dignity", the plea states "...the patients who are absolutely normal are forced to live with the mentally ill persons since last many years and hence their fundamental rights are infringed by the Respondents," said Bansal.
Seeking urgent intervention of the court, the plea also says the living conditions of fully recovered inmates along with the mentally ill patients, was "totally unsatisfactory", "unethical" and "unconstitutional."
Confirming the presence of fully recovered patients at the hospital, Director, Bareilly Mental Hospital, Dr P K Manglik told ScoopWhoop "many patients have completed even the recovery period after the treatment at hospital but haven't gone home."
"The families don't come to claim their patients. The recovered patients are as normal as any human being," Dr Manglik said. He, however, didn't divulge the number of such inmates at the hospital.
The list of 70 inmates prepared by Bansal shows an overwhelming majority of the inmates at the mental hospital are women. Out of the total 70, there are 65 women who have recovered fully and are desperate to go home, besides five males.
"But I am afraid there might be more," Bansal, a private lawyer whose legal activism focuses on environment and human rights, said. "There's no such record of the fully recovered patients with the hospital."
Among the 70 inmates, some of them have been at the hospital for more than three decades. The case of Sumitara Devi is a classic example. She was 20 when she was admitted in the hospital in 1983, since then the mental hospital has become her home. Similar is the case of Lucknow's Madan Lal Shah, who was admitted in the hospital in 1979. Like others, both don't know whether they'll ever set foot outside the premises of mental hospital.
A two-judge vacation bench of Supreme Court has postponed Bansal's plea for hearing after the summer vacation of the court. The summer vacation of the court ends on June 28.
"They have only one desire: to go out from the mental hospital and live freely," Bansal said.