New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a PIL seeking direction to Centre and central armed police forces (CAPFs) to periodically carry out specific mental health assessments of all their personnel to ensure that they are not only physically but also mentally fit while on duty.
A bench headed by Justice S Abdul Nazeer refused to entertain the plea however it granted liberty to the petitioners to approach the concerned authority with representation. It also asked the authority to decide the representation expeditiously when it is filed.
At the outset, senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for petitioners Mahavir Singh and T Unnikrishnan, both of whom retired as sub-inspectors from CRPF, argued that there are increasing trends of suicides and no counseling is available also no proper and psychiatric care under Mental Health Act is available.
To this, the bench asked if the petitioners have filed any representation before the authority concerned and asked them to apply to the authority.
The plea sought urgent rectification of the traditional focus on bravery and physical fitness that largely glossed over the stress-affected mental health of armed police personnel in conflict zones resulting in an unacceptably high number of suicides and fratricidal incidents.
The PIL said during 2007-2019, as many as 148 CAPFs personnel, deployed in Naxal-affected Bastar district, committed suicide, but the depressing statistics did not stir the authorities to conduct a proper study for evaluation of the mental health of personnel deployed in disturbed areas for taking concrete preventive measures.
In August last year, Union minister of state for home Nityananda Rai had informed the Rajya Sabha that a total of 680 personnel had committed suicide in the last six years, said the plea.
Yet, the government remained silent on scrupulous implementation of well-meaning laws — the Mental Health Act, 2017 and the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 — in the CAPFs, the plea further stated.
Quoting National Crime Records Bureau data, the petitioners said as many as 439 CAPFs personnel committed suicide between 2014 to 2019, when 220 CAPFs personnel were killed on duty pointing to the grim situation which required urgent attention.
The petitioners said adequate financial and administrative provisions should be made for engaging expert psychiatrists to counsel the stressed personnel and conduct periodic tests to assess their mental health.