Nowadays, “health” refers to more than just bodily well-being—it also refers to mental and spiritual wellness. The idea itself has gained enormous legitimacy, which has prompted the government to maintain the current facilities and make room for the most recent advancements in mental health care.


Since mental health is essential to overall wellbeing, governments all over the world have been attempting to enact comprehensive laws and policies that uphold and advance mental health rights. The Mental Health Act is a crucial piece of legislation in India that protects rights and guarantees that people with mental health disorders receive proper care. This article gives a thorough summary of the Mental Health Act in India, emphasising its main goals, laws, and effects on the nation’s mental health care system.


In order to safeguard the rights of people with mental diseases, provide them with access to high-quality mental healthcare, and stop the mistreatment and abuse of psychiatric patients, the Mental Health Act was passed into law in India in 1987. A major step in reorienting the focus from custodial care to community-based mental health services was taken by the Act. Back then numerous laws were presented for the consideration of individuals with psychological instability, including:

  • the Lunacy (Supreme Courts) Act 1858
  • the Lunacy (District Courts) Act 1858
  • the Indian Lunatic Asylum Act 1858 (with alterations passed in 1886 and 1889)
  • the Military Lunatic Act of 1877.


Among the main goals of the Mental Health Act are the following:

a. Upholding individual rights: The Act guarantees the dignity, autonomy, and equality before the law of individuals with mental illness by recognising and defending their fundamental rights. It guarantees equal access to mental healthcare and forbids cruel and degrading treatment.

b. Fostering community-based care: The Act prioritises community-based treatment over institutionalisation by stressing the integration of mental health services into the broader healthcare system. It promotes the establishment of mental health services in district hospitals and primary healthcare facilities, among other settings.

c. Stabilising the legal foundation: The Act establishes a framework for the admission, care, and release of people with mental illness. It defines the processes for certifying individuals who are mentally ill, protects against wrongful detention, and describes the obligations of mental health practitioners.

Key Provisions:

a. The Act provides a broad definition of mental disease that includes a variety of mental health issues, such as psychosocial disability. It guarantees that everyone with mental health problems is covered by the Act, irrespective of the precise diagnosis.

b. Admission and Discharge: The Act lays forth precise rules for the admission and release of people suffering from mental illness. In order to safeguard the rights of the individual, forced admission is only allowed in certain situations and necessitates the certification of mental disease by a licenced medical professional.

c. Advance Directives: The Act acknowledges people’s right to make advance directives, enabling them to indicate their choices for medical care, medicine, and treatment in the event that they are unable to make those decisions for themselves in the future.

d. Mental Health Review Boards: The Act creates Mental Health Review Boards to monitor the Act’s implementation, examine involuntary admission cases, and protect the rights of people with mental illness at the district, state, and federal levels.

b. Decriminalisation of Suicide: By acknowledging attempted suicide as a sign of mental illness, the Act decriminalises it. It promotes treating those who attempt suicide with compassion and focuses on giving them access to the right kind of mental health care and assistance.

Rights under MHA:

  • Right to Make an Advance Directive (During a mental health crisis, a patient has the option of stating how or whether they want to be treated for their illness).
  • Right to Access to Healthcare Services.
  • Right to free healthcare services.
  • Right to live in a community.
  • Right to protection from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
  • Right not to be treated under prohibited conditions.
  • Right to equality and non-discrimination.
  • Right to information.
  • Right to confidentiality.
  • Right to legal aid and to complain.


  • The Mental Health Act, 1987 -The purpose of this Act is to adequately provide for psychologically ill people’s property and affairs, as well as matters related to it, by consolidating and amending the laws about the treatment and care of those individuals. In other words, the Act creates measures for psychological care and support for those who have mental illnesses, as well as to advance and uphold these individuals’ freedom while providing such treatment and assistance.
  • The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 – A law to establish various nationwide human rights institutions to effectively safeguard basic rights. Additionally, it supports the initiatives of agencies and NGOs that are working for the said cause.
  • Persons with Disability Act, 1995 – According to this law, disabled individuals are entitled to the same rights as other people and the government is responsible for facilitating their complete involvement in the community. The government is required to provide costless schooling and incorporate special needs students into regular classrooms.
  • The National Trust Act, 1999 – The National Trust was established under the “National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities” Act and is an official entity of the Social Justice Ministry and Empowerment, of India. It was established to carry out two fundamental responsibilities: legal and welfare. Local Level Committees (LLC) and the provision of legal guardianship are used to carry out legal obligations, and with the help of various Programs, welfare obligations are met.
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 – Sec.3 of this Act states that any type of behaviour or conduct by the respondent that jeopardizes the victimized individual’s safety, life, body part, or wellbeing, whether mentally or physically, or by inflicting assault, physical molestation, abusive language, mental abuse, or financial abuse; or terrorises the injured party to force her or any individual related to her, to fulfil the unethical demands for dowry or other valuables; or cause injury, either physically or mentally to the victim.
  • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 – Part 5 of this Act makes provisions for mental healthcare to take care of the child’s mental health needs, who has suffered from abuse.
  • Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 – by replacing the Act of 1987, the MHA, 2017 was passed. The old Act put stress on the institutionalisation of mentally ill people over the protection of their rights.
  • Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) 2023 is supposed to replace the Indian Penal Code- Section 86 of the BNS now includes harming a woman’s mental health in the definition of ‘cruelty’.


An important step towards acknowledging and defending the rights of people with mental illness is the Mental Health Act in India. Even though it has created a solid framework for mental health care, more work is still required to reduce stigma, increase accessibility, and increase awareness. India can guarantee the preservation and safeguarding of the rights and welfare of every person suffering from mental illness by persisting in giving priority to mental health and tackling the current obstacles.

Adv Khanak Sharma (D\1710\2023)

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