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The Delhi High Court has issued a slew of directions to expedite setting up of halfway homes for mentally-ill prisoners and recruiting trained staff to be deployed there, saying these homes should start working with "utmost urgency". Halfway homes are residences for individuals who are released from institutions treating the mentally ill or drug addicts to facilitate their readjustment in normal life. A bench of Justices Gita Mittal and Anu Malhotra asked the Principal Secretary (Home) of Delhi government to complete the drafting of rules for recruiting staff to these homes and forward it to the Health Secretary expeditiously. The Health Secretary has been asked to scrutinise the rules and forward it within four weeks to the Chief Secretary who in turn shall forward it within two months from the date of order to the UPSC for finalisation and notification. "Given the imperative need to commence functioning of the halfway homes with utmost urgency, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) shall prioritise scrutiny of these rules and ensure these recruitment rules are finalised within four weeks of receipt from the Chief Secretary and notified immediately thereafter," the bench said in its order of February 22. The head of the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) has been asked to give the timelines within which three halfway homes, being built by it in Dwarka, Rohini and Narela areas of Delhi, would be handed over to the Social Welfare Department. The bench also directed the government to adhere to the timelines given by it for operationalisation of the half-way homes and for recruitment of staff to deal with mental health issues in Tihar Jail. The directions came on an appeal moved in 2011 by a woman in August 2010 convicted of murdering her husband and step- daughter.
She was later found to be suffering from schizophrenia.
The court had started looking into half-way homes for mentally-ill prisoners as the woman's brothers and sisters did not want to take her in or stand surety for her because of her illness, for which she has been undergoing treatment at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS).
In its order, the high court also directed the Director General (Prisons) to consider implementation of the model prison manual suggested by the Centre in 2016. The Chief Secretary of Delhi government has also been directed to give the timeline within which all new prisons would be operationalised. The direction came after Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra submitted before the court that at the new jail in Mandoli in east Delhi, two prisons having a total capacity of 1500 prisoners were already functional and two more, one of them for women, having a capacity of 650 inmates each shall be operationalised within the next two weeks. However, no timeline for operationalising the two prisons was placed before the court, which therefore directed the government to give the details. The bench took on record a status report submitted by the IHBAS which has said that two halfway homes with a total capacity of 50 have been operationalised from February 15. Construction of a third halfway home for 100 additional inmates was underway, IHBAS had told the court.