This is apropos of a news item (Jan 22), wherein the case of an under-trial prisoner (UTP) came up for hearing at the Sindh High Court. Sana and her husband allowed their six-month-old child to die during a 40-day attempt (chilla) to ward off evil spirits.
The lawyer referred to psychiatric examination of the under-trial prisoner under the Lunacy Act, 1912.
The Mental Health Act stands repealed as a result of the issuance of the Mental Health Ordinance, 2001.
Accordingly, the case should be subjected to psychiatric examination under section 10 of the Mental Health Ordinance, 2001.
The incident also highlights the urgent need to educate and update lawyers, as well as the police and judicial officers, regarding the Ordinance.
I myself had regularly delivered lectures at several forums, including the Sindh Judicial Academy, but it seems that there are several grey areas that need to be worked on.
The Mental Health Ordinance 2001 relates to changes in accordance with better provision of care and treatment of the mentally-challenged persons, management of properties, community care, promotion of mental health and prevention of mental disorders with emphasis on human rights.
Several derogatory terms such as 'lunatic asylum' now stand obsolete.
The Mental Health Ordinance has a provision for an effective body at the national level (Federal Mental Health Authority) with its provincial arms in the shape of the Board of Visitors.
PROF MUSARRAT HUSSAIN
Member, Federal Mental Health Authority
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