Friday, March 31, 2023

Central armed police personnel mental health: Supreme Court refuses to hear PIL, asks petitioners to move authority concerned

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The Supreme Court has refused to hear a Public Interest Litigation in the interest of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) raising concern of mental health issues of CAPF officers who committed suicide and fratricide over the years in various CAPF departments such as the Assam Rifles, the Central Industrial Security Force, the Border Security force, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Sashastra Seema Bal, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force and the National Security Guard. 

The petitioners, Mahabir Singh and other retired members of Central Armed Police Forces, sought the necessary implementation of provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017, in the writ petition. Senior Advocate C.U. Singh, who appeared for Mahabir Singh and other retired members of CRPF, submitted they are CAPF officers posted in remote areas. With suicide cases surging, there is no counselling available to CAPF officers, their plea said.

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The two-judge bench of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari  declined to entertain the PIL and directed Mahabir Singh and other retired officers of CAPF to approach the authority concerned with regard to relief sought in the petition.

Senior Advocate Singh submitted that there is a regime but not properly implemented.

In the petition, the petitioners prayed to carry out specific mental health assessment of all personnel to ensure that they are not only physically but also mentally fit while on duty. 

The events of November and December 2021 wherein four CRPF personnel were killed and three others were injured when their own colleague opened fire at a paramilitary force at Chhattisgarh and later when an Army personnel committed suicide with his service rifle in Kashmir were the actual causes which led to Advocate Shilpa Liza George to file petition in the welfare of CRPF officers to raise grievances of mental health in various CRPF departments. 

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The National Crime Records Bureau data show that over 439 CAPF personnel committed suicide between 2014 and 2019 as compared to 220 deaths of CAPF personnel being killed on duty, the petition states.

Advocate Shilpa Liza George in the petition cites judgment of Madras High Court in Vijay Pratap Singh (2021 SCC ONLINE MAD 5613), wherein the High Court observed,

“It is true that none would easily accept that he has some mental illness and requires treatment. People will normally go on a denial mode.”

The petitioner cites provision of Section 18 of Mental Health Care Act 2017 which states about providing the right to access mental healthcare. 

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Senior Advocate Singh raised the concern before the bench about constituting a non-uniformed cadre of trained and eligible psychological counsellors in CAPF.  

The CAPF and its counterparts are under the Ministry of Home Affairs which provides internal security of country. A total 148 CAPF personnel had committed suicide during 2007 -2019, states the petition of Mahabir Singh.

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