Mental health encompasses all aspect of life, it is not restricted to one’s mental condition but also includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Good mental well-being in general ensures good quality of life. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was signed and ratified on October 1, 2007 by the Union of India and based on which the Parliament took up the issue of harmonizing existing laws of the country with international conventions and practices. The Mental Health Care Act, 2017 was passed on 7th April, 2017 with regard to the pressing need for better mental healthcare services and to protect and empower people with mental illnesses against stigmas faced by them in society. The present act came into force from 29 May 2018 and repeals the previous Mental Health Act, 1987.   


Right to Access State funded Mental Healthcare & Services 

  • Section 18: provides a Person with Mental Illness (PMI) the right to access to State funded Mental healthcare services and establishments.  
  • The Act defines mental healthcare services as being non-discriminatory, cost-effective, qualitative, and accessible. It also ensures that such service is to be given only in a manner that is acceptable to persons with mental illness and their families or care-givers. 

Right to Reside within Community 

  • Section 19: provides the right to the PMI to live in, be part of and not be segregated from society. It also provides for a non-compulsion clause to allow PMI to not be  compulsorily detained in mental healthcare establishments. 
  • The act also envisions providing legal aid to such persons to facilitate exercising their right to their family home. 

Right to Protection from Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment 

  • Section 20: provides for right to live with dignity and in a safe and hygienic environment within the mental healthcare establishments. It further prescribes the basic and necessary facilities which are to be provided to the PMI in all the healthcare establishments. 
  • The section also restricts forcing the PMI undertake work in a mental health establishment but to receive appropriate remuneration for work when undertaken.  

Decriminalizing ‘Attempt to Suicide’  

  • The highlight of the act is that section 115(1) decriminalizes attempt to suicide and for it to be treated as an exception to section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The provision further states that such a person should be deemed as having severe stress and should therefore not be tried and punished under the said Code. 
  • The State has been given additional responsibility to provide care, treatment, and rehabilitation to such person to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide 

Advance Directives for Care & Treatment  

  • Section 5(1) provides the PMI the right to sign advance directives specifying the way they wish to be treated for their mental illness. This reinforces their right to a dignified life and shields against any adversaries they might face because of their condition.  
  • It also protects against arbitrary decisions with respect to treatment as any medical professionals assigned to their case can review, alter, modify, or cancel their advance directive only after making an application under section 9 to the Mental Health Review Board established under the Act. 

Right To Confidentiality  

  • As per section 23, persons with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of their mental healthcare and treatment.  
  • The exception to such a right of confidentiality would only arise in case of the possibility of harm or violence or threat to life of the person with mental illness or another person. 
  • This information can only be released upon an order by Mental Health Review Board or the Central Authority or High Court or Supreme Court or any other statutory authority in the interests of public safety and security. 

Mental Health Review Boards 

  • As per Section 73, the State Authority, under the Act has been empowered to constitute Mental Health Review Boards, with a serving or retired District Judge as its chairperson and 5 other members as per the specification of the State Authority in consultation with the concerned State Government. 
  • The ambit of the Board is wide wherein it can appoint nominated representative for the mentally ill persons, decide on applications under the Act regarding advance directives, working conditions of mental healthcare establishments, in respect non-disclosure of information and adjudicate complaints regarding deficiencies in care. 


The Act introduces much needed rights favoring the persons with mental illnesses. One of the highlights of the Act is the clause decriminalizing ‘Attempt to suicide’ u/s 309 of the Indian Penal Code to allow such persons with the right aid rather than penalizing their mental state. The idea reflects the overall difference in approach from the previously standing law. Persons with Mental Illness (PMI) are often stigmatized and discriminated against, and a much larger burden falls on the marginalized, backward, and poor communities. The legislation is a welcome step towards helping people and envisages to lessen these burdens.