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May 25, 2019

SHC seeks details of mental health facilities in Sindh


May 25, 2019

The Sindh High Court on Friday directed all commissioners of the province, the director general health and the secretary health to provide details of mental health facilities in the province.

Hearing a petition of Erum Shaheed, who has sought the custody of her mentally disabled sister, a single bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar observed that a citizen suffering from a mental disorder needed not be abandoned or chained; rather, every possible effort should be made for his rehabilitation and treatment so that he might continue as good hands not only for his family but for society too.

The petitioner submitted that her sister Moona Shaheen had been suffering from a mental disorder and had been a psychiatric patient since birth, that after the death of their mother, her sister had not been properly looked after by the family members, and she was in a miserable condition.

The petitioner requested the court to direct the respondents to hand over the custody of her sister to her so that she could look after her. Her counsel submitted that despite the promulgation of the Sindh Mental Health Act 2013, no authority and board had been constituted.

The court, after perusal of the law, observed that the Sindh Mental Health Authority and the board had to be constituted under the law and the authority had to develop and establish new standards for the care and treatment of patients as well as for their rehabilitation.

It further said that since a person suffering from such ailments can cause harm to himself or others, blood relations normally prefer to keep him chained, which shall never bring any improvement in the mental condition of such a person.

The court observed that since the state is the undeniable guardian of its every single citizen; hence, an immediate responsibility lies upon it to provide an ease in every such matter which involves questions over life and liberty of its citizens.

The court directed the commissioner and health department officials to submit details, including hospitals, centres and homes in the public or private sectors with regard to persons with mental disorders as well as pointing out the buildings or lands which are specified for the above purpose but are occupied by any authority or private persons.

It also called a report from the Sindh Mental Health Authority and the board with regard to meetings thereof and initiatives for which they were established. The court observed that if an authority and a board are required to be established, and they are alleged to have not been established so far, then the chief secretary shall ensure they are established. It directed the health secretary to submit details of the strength of psychiatrists working in Sindh in the public sector.

It directed all commissioners, deputy commissioners and SSPs to constitute special committees to visit public places, including shrines and graveyards, and if any person having such ailments is found he shall be referred for treatment to the concerned authority.

The court observed that the Sindh mental health law also provides for inspections of such patients. It directed the district and sessions judges that while visiting prisons they should ensure that prisoners, having mental disorders are referred to the authority and the IG prisons should visit and submit a report on as to how many prisoners are suffering from mental ailments in all the prisons in Sindh, including women and juveniles.

Regarding the petitioner’s concerns, the court directed the district health officer (DHO) to depute two doctors, one physician and one psychiatrist, to visit the house of the petitioner’s sister to examine her, provide her health facilities and submit a detailed report on or before July 10.

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