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Confined without consent

Two months of rehab for being arrogant? this is just one of the cases of persons being restrained in de-addiction centres against their will. Soon, the capital will have its own set of rules for them to abide by

This month the Delhi High Court pulled up Indian Air Force officials for confining corporal Kriyad Yogesh Bhankhariya to a psychiatric ward for over two months without his consent. This was done reportedly because he was an alcoholic and suffered from mental disorders.

This case, though it sounds outrageous, is just one of many. Last year, a habeas corpus petition was filed by the father and brother of a man, alleging he was illegally detained at a de-addiction centre in the city. Vinod Kumar Tanwar was admitted by his wife and son on the grounds that he was an alcoholic.

And this illegal consignment of so-called alcoholics to de-addiction centres is just one of the problems these centres have to tackle, if they are not to be used by families to get rid of members they deem as troublesome.

The Mental Health Care Act 2017 which came into force in July of last year, makes the confinement of a person unlawful without their consent. The bench in the case of the corporal, comprising Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel said that this was a “clear case where a man is saying he has been detained without consent.” Furthermore, it said, “You cannot force him to undergo treatment without his consent. How are you pumping him full of drugs?”

Advocate Azam Ansari, the counsel for Bhankhariya tells Patriot that he refused medicines once or twice, but was too scared, “if you refuse or argue you put yourself into bigger trouble. People would be injected with some medicine which would make them sleep for two days”. Furthermore, each person would be called to the middle of the room, one by one, made to sit and and take the medicine in front of the attendees. If not, they would be force fed.

Delhi Government standing counsel Rahul Mehra told Patriot that that there were “other factual issues out there where clearly, he (Bhankhariya) didn’t need any psychiatric treatment and was being provided one.” He refused to say more, as the matter is sub judice.

The IAF has said that the corporal had alcohol dependency issues for which he was initially treated in the psychiatric ward of Delhi’s Army Base Hospital in June, and was later shifted to the medical centre at the Tughlakabad Air Force Station.
They also alleged that there was a complaint from his wife that he turned violent after consuming alcohol.

In his redressal of grievances, dated June 27, Bhankhariya states that he was being harassed by his senior because he didn’t show him the required respect of a salute one time. He also states that “one of the main reasons assigned in my Form-10 is that I’m arrogant”, he adds. “Can arrogancy (sic) be the reason for raising Form-10 of an airman”.

Form-10 is filled by the commanding officer to refer someone to the psychiatrist. The Form which is raised should have the reason why the junior is being referred for examination.

The redressal of grievances letter also states that the incident with his (Bhankhariya’s) senior took place on April 26, and the next day itself he was sent for psychiatric evaluation and then admitted.

Advocate Ansari maintains that this was a case of the commanding officer abusing his power.

He also alleges that many armed forces personnel are kept in detention without their consent at the hospital. The veracity of this allegation has not been confirmed.

Making new rules

The court has now, on July 12, asked the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) to finalise and approve the draft rules for regulating de-addiction centres in the national capital within four weeks.

Much is amiss with Delhi’s de-addiction centres, as found by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority. The report submitted in the Delhi HC to the bench headed by Justices S Muralidhar and Mehta, was part of a PIL in favour of bringing de-addiction centres under the purview of the Mental Health Act (MHA) 2017 instead of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), 1985. Draft rules for the regularisation of de-addiction centres have adopted the MHA 2017.

The report, which investigated 96 centres, found 750 people kept involuntarily. It also found most centres subjecting the patients to physical and emotional torture, unhygienic living spaces and even sexual exploitation.

Inmates in at least 25 centres were found to be subjected to beatings and torture. The report noted that in Ashritha Foundation, an inmate had died allegedly after excessive torture at the hands of the authorities at the centre. Another inmate died after he was given an injection of the wrong medicine.

An inmate from Surya Kiran Foundation also alleged that a staff member sought sexual favours from the inmates. The report claims more such instances were reported.

These findings make it even more imperative to have set accountability for these centres and people who should be keeping a hawk eye on them.

In November 2017, the Delhi HC had ordered the closure of illegally run de-addiction centres, which reports claimed would have seen at least 100 affected. Advocate Mehra said that while the “process for the closure of the de-addiction centres started, only 30-35 of them were shut”. Numerous FIRs were registered, people were arrested, but, Mehra says, “quite a few of them came to court and said that we are running proper centres and there’s no regime in place from whom to take licences.” There is a real problem, a vacuum, in which the centres operate, Mehra adds, with the owners asking to be allowed to continue running the places till a regulatory mechanism comes in.

The Delhi Government, Mehra says, wants an Act in place for the state, which will take some time, so until then they want rules to regularise the de-addiction centres.

There is an acute problem of substance abuse, with people getting a taste of drugs and alcohol at a young age. In March 2018, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment found that almost 90 per cent of Delhi’s street kids were addicted to substances including tobacco and alcohol.

A visit to the SPYM de-addiction centre for children reveals just how acute the problem is. Children as young as seven are admitted here through the Child Welfare Committee. They are treated for three months, then sometimes their stay is extended to a few more weeks.

Once they are back leading normal lives, says Aditya Kumar, Asst Programme Manager at the centre, door-to-door checks of every child becomes hard.

The children there look happy and content, away from the maddening and unsafe streets of Delhi. One ran up to show us what he had learnt to write in English, he read it out for us proudly, informing us about his family members and what they did.
De-addiction centres are a necessity, especially when you see them doing justice. We met Ashim (name changed), now 18 years old, who is an example of what rehabilitation can do.

He tells us that he ran away from his home in Mumbai at the age of 11. He took a train and reached Delhi with the money he stole from his mother. He started taking drugs and drinking alcohol, “I had many friends till my money lasted. After it got over, they left me too”.

Ashim went in and out of boys’ homes. He says, “I’ve lived on the streets very long. We used to go to Haridwar, Punjab. I’ve gone everywhere. To get money for food, we would pick pockets.”

He finally ended up at this de-addiction centre after he attacked a guard of a boys’ hostel he was staying in. “I was high and he wasn’t allowing me to go in, shoving and pushing me, so I got angry”.

After the attack, he was taken to court, which ordered him to be put in a de-addiction centre. “I’ve been here ever since. I used to feel bad in the first few days. But now I’m happy, I wear good clothes, eat good food.”

Ashim now works at the centre as a volunteer. He is looking for a home for himself, wants to take dance classes and hopes to find his parents, whose address he has forgotten.