Is there hope for Thane Mental Hospital's undertrials?
Last year, three undertrials died at Thane Mental Hospital. Shunned by family and forgotten by society, several inmates here have no access to legal redress
Several inmates within a prison cell inside the Thane Mental Hospital lie forgotten, shunned by family, only to become mere statistics. Often, the inmates have no access to legal redress. Over the past one year, three such inmates have died. Can Mumbai develop a system that such deprived individuals can fall back on? Jupru Patil, Chandra Kumar Lamnic, and ‘Not known Mukha’, all three shared the prison cell of Thane mental hospital for decades and died without being heard by the world outside. At present, 1,400 patients are admitted in Thane Mental Hospital, of which 17 are lodged in the prison cell. Two of them are undertrial patients.
According to criminal lawyer Dinesh Tiwari, “The Supreme Court in one of its judgment (Hussainara Khatun v/s State of Bihar) had condemned the practice of keeping the accused as an undertrial prisoner, for a very long time. The Supreme Court had suggested that, in case the accused completes the maximum possible sentence, he should be released on bail.”
Tiwari adds, “Jupru, Lamnic and Not Know Mukha should all have been released on bail and they should have been kept in a regular ward within the hospital”.
However Deputy Director Mental Health, Dr Sanjay Kumavat, who was earlier the Superintendent of Thane Mental Hospital, disagrees. According to him, both Jupru and Lamnic were chronic paranoid schizophrenic, who by virtue of their suspicious mind and behaviour, got excited often and needed to be institutionalised. Since these patients do not have support from the society, we could still take care of them till they were alive,” he says.
“They were dangerous even after over 30 years at the hospital,” added Dr Kumavat.
Dr Kumavat said that even a six-member judicial committee did not find them fit to face the court trial. Their status was also intimated to the courts accordingly. “Unfortunately, mental health issues are still taboo. The need of the hour is to go for community mental health and day care centers, where the patients can be provided with vocation and rehabilitation training.”
Senior lawyer Rohini Salian told SMD, “It is unfortunate that Jupru had to stay inside the prison cell of the hospital for such a long time. Though right to be heard is a constitutional right of every citizen, it is also a fact that none of these patients were not in a position to stand trial in the court.”
Jupru Patil, an octogenarian, was brought to Thane mental Hospital by the Jalgaon police after the Additional Session Court, Jalgaon, referred him to the hospital on August 18, 1975.
Patil hails from Jamner district, Jalgaon, and was arrested for murdering his wife in 1975. He had killed her with a sickle in the fields.
Jupru was treated as an undertrial prisoner in the special ward no 8, located in a corner of the hospital. It is also called the prisoner’s ward.
The panel members of hospital medical board found Patil unfit for discharge and rejected his case every time he was produced, till he died.
Chandra Kumar Lamnic
The Nagpada police brought Lamnic to the hospital on December 19, 1990.
Lamnic’s aggressive and violent behaviour during the initial days made hospital authorities to take a decision of preventing his movement outside the ward no 18A, for nearly two months, a hospital source said.
It was after his health showed signs of improvement that he was allowed to leave his ward at times. However, on the morning of November 13, 1992, Lamnic, spotted a lady Assistant Medical Officer and sexually harassed her.
Since then, till his death, Lamnic was kept in the special cell with other under trial patients, the source revealed.
Not known mukha
Not Known Mukha was the name given to an old man who was being treated in the hospital for decades. He was given the name because he was deaf and mute. He had no relatives and was a hardworking patient in the Occupational Therapy department of the hospital.
According to hospital sources Mukha enjoyed working on the power loom and repaired used slippers for patients. His health had improved but he could not be discharged as he had no relatives. He was diagnosed with “mild mental retardation”.