Establishment of a lok adalat and a legal aid cell at
National Workshop on Mental Illness and Homelessness Chennai, 25th – 27th August, 2004 Establishment of a Lok Adalat and a Legal Aid Cell at The Banyan
(Lawyer, Journalist, and Member of the Advisory Board, The Banyan)
The Banyan faced problems in producing its patients in a magistrate's court on a regular
basis for reception orders under the Mental Health Act, as required by the authorities since September 2001. Some of the patients found the atmosphere in the court intimidating and
disturbing. The Madras High Court solved the predicament in a unique and imaginative way. For the first time, a 'Lok Adalat' or 'people's court' was set up at the institution's
premises itself for the patients' convenience.
Under instructions from the Chief Justice, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate deputed a
magistrate to hold hearings once a week at The Banyan. Since then, a visiting magistrate has been passing reception orders of varying periods for the women after scrutinising the
medical certificates issued by the psychiatrist.
In October 2002, another unique experiment was started at The Banyan. The Tamil Nadu
State Legal Services Authority started a legal support clinic for the benefit of the patients, many of whom had grievances that required legal relief. The Authority asked a lawyer
from its legal aid panel to visit The Banyan regularly so that the patients had direct access
to professional legal help. The advocate listens to the patients, writes out petitions on their behalf, and forwards them to the respective district courts for assistance.
Most of these cases concern attempts to establish contact with the patients' families, requests for assistance or maintenance from the families, meetings with their children and
steps to protect their share of property. Many problems have been resolved through this mechanism, and there have been cases of the patients getting back their dowry from
As The Banyan's patients are all homeless and destitute, all admissions are involuntary
and come through either the police or members of the public. New admissions not involving the police are brought to the notice of the police within 48 hours, and the
reception order is obtained at the earliest available opportunity.
Concerns have been raised over whether it is proper for a magistrate to visit an institution
to pass an order that effectively means confining a person to a particular place. While this is seen as a practical solution to a genuine problem, it is not a practice that can be
replicated in any institution. It is recommended only for institutions with a proven track
Organised by The Banyan Funded by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust National Workshop on Mental Illness and Homelessness Chennai, 25th – 27th August, 2004
Another issue that was raised was that of compliance with the law that states that a police
officer taking persons into protective custody should produce them before a magistrate within 24 hours. In most cases, the police bring in women found with signs of mental
illness as soon as possible, as it is far easier for them to transfer them to an institution like The Banyan than to take them to a court and obtain a reception order for admission into a
Issues relating to admission and discharge under the Mental Health Act appear to lack
clarity, as procedures adopted in various states and government/ private mental health institutions seem to vary from place to place. However, the Act itself is clear on the
procedure for voluntary and involuntary admission. The Medical Superintendent of a
mental health institution can discharge a patient who has recovered, and The Banyan discharges its residents after their families are traced.
The Mental Health Act provides for compelling a family member responsible for the care of
a mentally ill person to maintain him or her, but the penalty prescribed for refusal to
discharge this responsibility is a small fine.
If a mentally ill woman needed financial assistance from a family that deserted her, there are remedies available in general laws, like applying through a court for maintenance
under Sec.125 of Cr.PC. Property rights of the mentally ill are covered by various
Organised by The Banyan Funded by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust
Nephrol Dial Transplant (2005) 20: 441–443doi:10.1093/ndt/gfh297Treatment of baclofen overdose by haemodialysis: a pharmacokineticstudyVin-Cent Wu1,2, Shuei-Liong Lin2, Shu-Meng Lin3 and Cheng-Chung Fang31Department of Internal Medicine, Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, 2Department of Internal Medicine and 3Departmentof Emergency Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, National Taiwan
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