She Spent Twelve Years of her Life under confinement in a MENTAL HOSPITAL

She Spent Twelve Years of her Life under confinement in a MENTAL HOSPITAL: 2009–2021

Article excerpted from a Landmark Judgement ,

(IN THE FAMILY COURT NO 3 AT BANDRA, MUMBAI

ORDER PASSED ON 10.12.2021 BY JUDGE SWATI CHAUHAN.)

“There is something incredibly beautiful about a woman who knows herself, she cant break, she just falls but in every fall she rises, past who she was before:” Nikki Rowe

( I dedicate the quote to the wife: Judge Swati Chauhan )

Dr Harish Shetty

( Dr Harish Shetty is a Psychiatrist)

A story one may find it difficult to believe but it is true ! In the economic capital of India, a woman spent 12 long years of her life in the confines of a mental hospital ( 2009 – 2021 )! And what was her fault ? None ! And she was discharged by the Medical Superintendent of the mental hospital on the 9th April 2014 once, but her husband refused to accept her and sent her back ! She languished there till 2021 till the Family Court Bandra took notice of it. ‘ The husband had put forth lame excuses of his son’s education and comfort of his old and aged father for not allowing wife to enter the matrimonial home’, the learned Judge Swati Chauhan observed.

The story goes back to 1993 when she married her husband. They had a son in 1997. The husband admitted his wife in the mental hospital through a reception order by a Metropolitan Magistrate in 2009. The court observes here that, ‘This is a classic example of how a reception order of the court was misused to literally drive out a legally wedded wife from the matrimonial home and thereafter restrict her re-entry’. She was sent to the mental hospital for psychiatric treatment. In the meanwhile the Husband filed for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty and unsoundness of mind in 2012.

She was never released from the hospital and the worst part was her husband and her son who attained majority never cared to visit her. Her father passed away and her brother showed no interest , and not a single soul on the earth checked on her well being. The husband continued pursuing the divorce case simultaneously.

An interesting part of the order which all of us must take note of was that, ” The Court appointed Deputy Registrar of the Family court to act as Guardian of the respondent wife as she was alleged to be mentally ill. I pause here to mention that there is no strong proved medical evidence on record to hold that the respondent wife was suffering from incurable form of mental illness. The court had to sent several production warrants to the Mental Hospital, directing them to produce the respondent wife before the Court for interrogation. The Mental Hospital on one ground or the other evaded to produce the respondent wife before the court. Finally, on 12.10.2021, I had to strictly warn the Mental Hospital to produce the wife before the court or else adverse inference would be drawn against the Mental Hospital for their lackadaisical approach. The Court had to prevail upon the Regional Hospital, by persistently issuing production warrants to produce the wife before the court to evaluate her present condition. Finally on 20.10.2021 ,wife was produced before the Court under proper security of Medical Team” : Judge Swati Chauhan

When the court interviewed her on the first time, “the wife expressed her earnest desire to see her son. she asked as to what was the reason she was not being released from the mental hospital after so many years. she remembered her old days and said that she used to cook very good vegetable Biryani. she also explained the recipe of Biryani. she stated that the she had taken two doses of vaccination for protection from Covid-19 virus. she remembered her favorite movies stars and songs. Everyone present in the interview became sentimental when the respondent-wife stated that her favorite song was “pardesi pardesi Jana Nahi Muze chhod ke…….”. The husband was also called during interview to interact with the wife. The wife was overwhelmed while talking to husband. She asked him whether he has remarried,in that case, she suggested that, if he provides her with maintenance and shelter she would manage her life to live alone with assistance of her brother. She also expressed that after release from mental hospital, she will work for some NGO. when the interview was getting concluded, the respondent wife asked the petitioner husband that he should take her to a restaurant for meals and they can party. she expressed her gratitude towards the medical staff of the hospital who were taking her care.The wife showed gratitude towards all those who had helped her. she did not exhibit any vengeance and animosity towards the husband”( as quoted from the order).

The court appointed an Amicus -curiae Advocate Shabnam Kazi and two experts , Dr Sanjay Kumawat and Dr Soumitra Pathare to deal with the case. The experts were asked to examine and review the diagnosis, examination, analysis, diagnosis and review her condition. In the Report the experts observed that ‘the lady can be discharged and her ongoing treatment can be managed on an outpatient basis.’ The committee also observed that ‘though the Mental Health Care act came into force in May 18, the hospital continued to implement the repealed Mental Health Act.1987’

If the MHCA 2017 was implemented the stay of the lady could have been reviewed by the mental health review board after 6 months. The court asked the husband to take the wife to her matrimonial home but he suggested that he would move his wife in a shelter home. The Court counseled the husband and finally he agreed to take her home. The husband agreed to fully comply with the court orders that had follow ups integrated in the Judgement. The woman was set free on 27.11.2021 and as the court observes very sadly , ‘ I can only sympathize with her for she spent 12 precious years of her life under confinement of the mental hospital which is no less than incarceration’

This judgement raises many issues !

Are their many patients in mental hospitals across the country who have been dumped by families illegally ?

Can the review boards appointed at the earliest as required by the Mental Health Care Act 2017, in all the states thereby checking on the stay of patients in Mental Hospitals ?

Should Mental Health Professionals be more proactive and alert to examine the reasons and motives of all those who are dumped in the mental hospitals or anywhere else in suspicious circumstances ?

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