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Laws Relating to Psychology in India
In India, psychology and laws related to it have come a long way from the colonial era. There has been a steady adoption of a compassionate and empathetic view of the mentally ill from the days of shock therapy and chaining people up in asylums. This has been an iterative process, happening at a bill-by-bill pace. We have covered much ground and demystified a great deal of stigma surrounding this field. However, we know there is a long way to go before access to mental health services becomes as widespread as physiological ones.
History of Laws Related to Psychology in India
In the past, psychology was not recognized as a separate field of study and was mainly dealt with under the umbrella of psychiatry. However, in recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of psychology in legal matters and its application in the criminal justice system. This has led to the development of forensic psychology as a separate field of study in India and establishment of specialized forensic psychology units within the police and judicial system. The study of mind and behavior becomes crucial when accounts of the insanity plea are encountered. Whether the government should subject a mentally ill person to the same legal persecution as a mentally stable one poses a conflicting dialogue of responsibility and intention.
Laws about mental health began with the Lunatic Removal Act of 1851, which sanctioned to manage the exchange of British patients back to England. The treatment and management of mentally disturbed were a part of the discourse in the following subsequent acts −
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
Under these demonstrations, patients were kept for an uncertain period in helpless day-to-day environments, with minimal possibility of recuperation or release. Changes came along with the Indian Lunacy Act of 1912, where mental clinics were officially used in the legislative text. However, the Act concerned the custody of the mentally ill who could not carry out their lives independently.
Over half a century later, with the reformative protests from the Indian Psychiatric Association, the Mental Healthcare Act was legislated in 1987. It took a much more humane approach to the mentally ill. The Act characterized psychological maladjustment in a reformist manner, focusing on treatment and prevention instead of authority and custody. It gave point-by-point techniques for emergency clinic confirmation under extraordinary conditions. It underscored the need to ensure basic liberties, guardianship, and the administration of the property of individuals with psychological instability.
Legal Status of Psychology in the 21st Century
Before one progresses to the state of the field in India in the current times, it is important to note significant developments that occurred in the country in the first decade of the millennium. The Mental Health Care Bill 2013 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 19, 2013. The Bill repeals the Mental Health Act of 1987. The Statements of Objects and Reasons to the Bill state that the government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007.
The Convention requires the laws of the country to align with the Convention. The new Bill was introduced as the existing Act does not adequately protect the rights of persons with mental illness nor promote their access to mental health care.
In its essence, the Bill sought to accomplish the followings −
Make mental health services more accessible.
Decriminalize suicide to dispel the shame surrounding it.
Establish an advanced directive entitled a patient to the treatment they could be subject to by a practitioner.
Prohibit electro-convulsive therapy as a standard treatment modality.
Establish the Mental Health Review Commission and Board
Mental Health Care Act 2017
The Mental Healthcare Act 2017, passed by the Indian government, is a significant step towards improving the rights and access to mental healthcare for the people of India. The Act replaces the previous Mental Health Act of 1987 and aims to provide a comprehensive framework for protecting and promoting mental health in the country.
One of the key features of the Act is the emphasis on the rights of persons with mental illness. The Act recognizes the right to access mental healthcare as a fundamental right. It guarantees the right to access mental healthcare services, including the right to access emergency services and the right to access treatment in a manner that preserves the dignity and autonomy of the person. The Act also recognizes the right to confidentiality and informed consent, which are crucial for protecting the rights of persons with mental illness.
Another important aspect of the Act is the focus on deinstitutionalization, which aims to shift away from the traditional institutional care model and towards community-based care. This is intended to reduce the stigma associated with institutional care and to provide more appropriate and effective care for persons with mental illness. The Act also provides for establishing community-based rehabilitation centers and developing community-based mental health services to support this shift toward community-based care.
The Act also provides for the appointment of a Mental Health Review Board, which is responsible for overseeing the protection of the rights of persons with mental illness and ensuring that the Act provides mental healthcare services. Additionally, the Act also provides for the appointment of Mental Health Care Coordinators, who will be responsible for ensuring that the rights of persons with mental illness are protected and that they receive appropriate and effective care.
The Act also provides for establishing a National Mental Health Authority and State Mental Health Authorities, which are responsible for the implementation of the Act and for ensuring that mental healthcare services are available and accessible to all persons in need.
The laws related to psychology in India have developed in recent years, recognizing the importance of psychology in legal matters and its application in the criminal justice system. The Mental Healthcare Act 2017, and the policies related to mental health and well-being, provide a comprehensive framework for the protection and promotion of mental health in India and the recognition of forensic psychology as a separate field of study.
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