Bombay High Court orders release of 18-year-olds with intellectual disabilities from violence at Yerwada mental asylum

Joint press release by the Mental Disability Advocacy Center and the Human Rights Law Network, Mumbai

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Yerwada Regional Mental Hospital © MDAC

No child should grow up in an institution. However, this has been the reality of the lives of six young men with intellectual disabilities in Pune, whose cases have this week been the focus of the Bombay High Court.

The boys grew up in the Shivajinagar Children’s Home for Boys, an institution in Pune, Maharashtra. The home is supposed to be an inclusive environment, but the management did nothing to understand the needs of the young men, as required by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

Instead, the home’s management decided to wash their hands of them, asking the Child Welfare Committee (CWC, a quasi-judicial body) to transfer the young men to a mental asylum. In March, the CWC ordered them to be sent to the Yerwada Regional Mental Hospital. No expert opinions were sought on their intellectual disabilities, and the CWC didn’t even to speak to the young men themselves.

Yerwada is a closed psychiatric institution which houses over 1,800 adults (the largest psychiatric facility in Asia, it claims) and is not licensed to accept children. The CWC’s 12-line order, failing to distinguish between each of the six young men, stated simply that they behaved “in an irritable and angry and cruel manner”, and that, “it appears that they are not getting proper sleep”. No alternatives were considered, condemning them to live in a huge institution completely unsuited to their needs.

On Tuesday 22 October the Pune Times reported that an independent physician had visited the six young people in Yerwada and witnessed that they were needlessly medicated with psychiatric drugs and had injuries to their heads and bodies. The Yerwada institution has a duty under Indian law to protect its inmates from all forms of torture and ill-treatment.

The case brings into question the lack of implementation of the rights of people with disabilities. India, as a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, is require to take measures to ensure that support is offered, rather than locking up adults – and children – in large institutions.

On Friday 25 October, with MDAC’s input, HRLN-Mumbai lawyers filed a “Public Interest Litigation” (PIL) in the Bombay High Court. Under Indian law, PILs can be filed by someone other than the alleged victim. In this case the PIL was filed by Disability Rights Initiative, a division of HRLN. 

Bombay High Court © wikimedia commons

The case was heard yesterday (Monday 29 October) before Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice MS Sanklecha. At 5.30pm, the Court ordered:
1. That the six young adults be moved out of Yerwada institution by Thursday this week (31 October), to the government hospital in Pune.
2. The case comes back to Court on 6 November for ensuring compliance of its directions.
The reason why the children are being removed to another hospital immediately is because this will take them out of harm’s way and provide them with appropriate healthcare for their injuries. The Court further ordered that the State government of Maharashtra file a report within a month, “indicating steps being taken / been taken for ensuring the availability of homes” for children with special needs in Pune District.
HRLN and MDAC will monitor this situation and do whatever possible to ensure that these six young adults get the supports they need to live in the community. We also call on the State authorities to fully investigate the allegations of torture suffered by these boys.


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