New Delhi | A bill which seeks to decriminalise suicide and provide better healthcare for people suffering from mental illness was passed by the Rajya Sabha.
The Mental Health Care Bill 2013 says that any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be suffering from mental illness at the time of attempting suicide and shall not be liable to punishment under section 309 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
As of now, a person who attempts to commit suicide is charged under section 309 of IPC as it is considered to be an offence.
Replying to a debate on the legislation, Health Minister J P Nadda termed it as humane and progressive and said its focus was to provide better support and facilities to the people suffering from various kinds of mental illnesses.
This is a historic and progressive Bill. It has been a long standing effort.
It is patient-centric and focuses on how more facilities and support could be provided to the patients, Nadda said.
He said around 6-7 per cent of the country’s population suffered from some kind of mental illnesses, while 1-2 per cent suffers from acute mental disease.
He also admitted that there was shortage of medical staff dealing with mental health in the country and the government is trying hard to have more such specialists.
Various stakeholders including academia, experts and political establishment were consulted while formulating the Bill, Nadda said, adding the Bill focuses on community based treatment.
Special provisions for women and health have also been provided for in the Bill.
Members across the political spectrum, however, sought urgent steps to address the lack of infrastructure and shortage of psychiatrists in the country.
The Bill also provides for protection and promotion of rights of persons with mental illness during the delivery of health care in institutions and in the community.
The bill was passed unanimously through voice vote.
There were 134 official amendments to the bill, which took almost an hour to be passed clause by clause.
A senior Health Ministry official told PTI, Suicide has been treated as a form of severe stress which will not be punishable under 309 of IPC.
Earlier it used to be considered as offence. Now a humanistic approach has been taken in this matter.
It is a very reformative. It is a significant progression from regulated healthcare to rights based mental health approach, the official said.