The Delhi High Court today directed the Indian Air Force (IAF) to review and change its protocols dealing with issues of stress and substance abuse in the force, saying its systems have to be in tune with the law.
The direction by a bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel was issued as it disapproved of the manner in which the IAF had kept a a 30-year-old corporal confined in a hospital's psychiatric ward as he was an alcoholic.
"We want to make sure the IAF does not think that the Mental Health Act does not apply to it. There cannot be such a casual exercise that you can keep a person hospitalised for as long as you want," it said.
"Review your protocols and make changes as per the law. You are not above the law. This has to stop. We want your systems to be in tune with the law as we do not know how many more people are being kept (confined) like this," the bench added.
It also said that the manner in which IAF conducted itself "reflects poorly" on the force, as it kept the corporal confined in the psychiatric ward of the de-addiction centre in the Army Base Hospital at Delhi Cantonment here for more than the specified duration of 28 days.
It directed that the corporal -- Kriyad Yogesh Bhankhariya -- be allowed to go home with his father and made it clear that no action regarding his medical category or fitness be taken without prior approval of the court.
The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by the corporal's father, claiming his son was being illegally confined at the Army Base Hospital.
The court also asked the corporal and his father to give an undertaking that as and when required Bhankhariya will visit the out patient department of the hospital for check-up.
The court asked the IAF to deposit in court one complete copy of the Corporal's medical record by July 16 and listed the matter for further hearing on August 17.
Central government standing counsel Ripudaman Singh Bhardwaj, appearing for the IAF, said the air force acted with bona fide intention in the instant matter. However, the court refused to accept the argument.
The bench had yesterday pulled up the IAF for confining the corporal to a psychiatric ward for over two months because he was an alcoholic and suffered from mental disorders.
The court had also said the newly-enacted Mental Health Act made it clear that a person could not be forced to undergo treatment without his consent, adding that the IAF "cannot ignore the laws of the country".
The IAF had told the court yesterday that the action against the corporal was taken on a complaint from his wife that he turned violent after consuming alcohol.
It had said that the corporal had alcohol dependency issues for which he was initially treated in the psychiatric ward of the Army Base Hospital here and thereafter, in June, he was shifted to the medical centre at the Tughlakabad Air Force Station.
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