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Supreme Court of India on mental health issues

Upholding the need for judges to be sensitive to the gravity of mental health issues, the Supreme Court has said the judiciary should not ...

Supreme Court of India on mental health issues
Upholding the need for judges to be sensitive to the gravity of mental health issues, the Supreme Court has said the judiciary should not treat the mental health of a person with a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
A Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna made the observation in a recent judgment based on an appeal filed by Karnataka against a High Court decision to quash a case of abetment of suicide against a government officer.

The officer’s driver died by suicide. A note left by him alleged that he was harassed by the officer, who had used his bank account to transfer ill-gotten wealth and convert black money into white.

The High Court had dismissed the charges against the officer, terming the driver a “weakling”. The High Court had also disbelieved the version that the dead man was under pressure, reasoning that he had met with friends and did not show any signs of being harassed or threatened.

The High Court had said the behaviour of the deceased before his death was not that of a person who was depressed and suffering from mental health issues.

“Behavioural scientists have initiated the discourse on the heterogeneity of every individual and have challenged the traditional notion of ‘all humans behave alike’. Individual personality differences manifest as a variation in the behaviour of people,” Justice Chandrachud observed, setting aside the High Court order quashing the case against the officer.

The apex court noted that “an individual copes with a threat — both physical and emotional, expressing (or refraining to express) love, loss, sorrow and happiness, varies greatly in view of the multi-faceted nature of the human mind and emotions”.

Thus, Justice Chandrachud, who wrote the 27-page judgment, said terms such as ‘weakling’ and measuring a person’s mental state by his outward conduct, etc, ‘deeply diminishes’ the gravity attached to mental health issues.

“The mental health of a person cannot be compressed into a one-size-fits-all approach,” the Supreme Court noted.

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