Court orders release of six ‘mentally ill’ detainees declared ’sane’August 5th, 2008 - 12:48 am ICT by IANS
Chennai, Aug 4 (IANS) After a health official told the Madras High Court that six people of the 115 detained by the police for being mentally ill “were sane”, the court ordered their release Monday and sought detailed explanation in the matter. The issue came to light when the daughter of a French tourist challenged his detention by the police. French tourist Vandenbyvange, 61, was detained in July by the police. His daughter Nathalie, 35, challenged the detention in the court.
A division bench headed by Prabha Sridevan and V. Periya Karuppiah came down heavily on the police for detaining the tourist when they found him begging in Kanyakumari after his papers were stolen in June. He could not speak any Indian language.
The tourist, who had come to India to meet the “hugging saint” Amritanandamayi, was robbed of his papers and cash and had to beg for food in Kanyakumari. After spending a month in custody, he was released following the court’s orders July 22.
However, the foreigner is just one of 115 others detained by police as mentally unsound. Their only crime was inability to provide satisfactory answers to police officials’ questions.
“The six people declared sane by deponent Dr Sathyanathan of the Institute of Mental Health should be immediately handed over to relatives. Further, details should be provided about the mental health of the others within two weeks,” the judges ruled.
People suspected of mental illnesses found begging in the streets are routinely detained by the police and left at government-run mental health institutions that are in appalling conditions.
Privately run NGOs Banyan and Udavum Karangal are two of the major institutions here that treat such destitute people in a humane manner.
The worst affected are the poor elderly, who cannot afford to stay at old-age homes and often end up at government or private-run mental health institutions as they have nowhere to go, an activist told IANS.