The Uttar Pradesh government has told the Supreme Court that it has directed chief medical officers to inspect all such religious places where "faith healers" are engaged in treatment of people to ensure that they do not indulge in any kind of human rights violation.
The state government said this in its affidavit filed in the apex court which is hearing a petition that has raised the issue of 17 mentally ill people being chained in a faith-based mental asylum in Budaun district of Uttar Pradesh.
The state government told the court that these 17 persons were chained in the 'dargah' on the pretext of treatment but released after a committee, constituted by the state, visited the place and directed their immediate release.
The affidavit also gave details of the steps taken by the state to ensure that such violation of human rights on the pretext of religion and exorcism may not be repeated in future.
It said all chief medical officers have been instructed by the state mental health authority to "inspect all such religious places where treatment is done by faith healers in coordination and help of district administration in order to ensure that faith healers may not indulge in practices which may amount to gross violation of human rights".
The affidavit further said all the chief medical officers in the state have been directed to identify all such religious places of their district and to recognise mental health camps running there.
Regarding the 'dargah' at Budaun, the affidavit said that after the issue came to light following the filing of the plea in the apex court, the state constituted a committee to look into it and the members of the panel visited there.
It said that "over a period of time, 'dargah' earned a reputation that whoever would visit this holy place, he or she would got exorcised of the evil spirits possessing him".
"The said committee, on visit, found that 17 people were chained on the pretext of ongoing treatment. It was brought to knowledge of the committee members that the people who come there for treatment are chained by their own family members in order to ensure that they may not escape treatment by running away," the affidavit said.
It said out of these 17 persons, nine were accompanied by their family members and eight were left by their family in the custody of management of 'dargah'.
"The committee immediately directed the management to release all the 17 chained patients," the affidavit said.
It said that a state mental health authority has been constituted by the state government and a proposal pertaining to its financial grant has also been forwarded.
The affidavit said proposals for constitution of mental health review board and for framing Uttar Pradesh mental health service rules have been sent to state government.
It said that state is "eager to make its regulation pursuant to the regulation of Central Mental Health Authority, India".
The top court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal who has said that persons with mental illness were chained in a faith-based mental asylum in Budaun in violation of the provisions of the Mental Health Care Act 2017.
Bansal had earlier told the court that issue regarding non-implementation of provisions of the Mental Health Care Act 2017 by the states and Union Territories (UTs) should be dealt with by the bench.
He has said in his plea that chaining a person suffering from mental illness was a blatant violation of a provision of the 2017 Act, which says that every such person will not only have a right to live with dignity but he or she will be protected from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The top court had earlier said that chaining of mentally ill people cannot be allowed and had termed as "atrocious" and "inhuman" such conduct in a faith-based mental asylum in Uttar Pradesh.
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