NHRC Chairperson Justice H L Dattu has said that protection of the rights of prisoners with mental health issues is an obligation of state governments.
The rights panel chief raised the issue during a day-long national-level review meeting on mental health, hosted by the NHRC at India International Centre on Wednesday.
The protection of the rights of prisoners having mental health issues is an obligation of state governments under Section 103 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, as also emphasised by the Supreme Court in one of its recent judgments, Dattu said.
In his address, the National Human Rights Commission chairperson also said the efforts to improve mental health care in the country have been made but a "huge gap" still remains between the requirements and availability of facilities in the sector.
Flagging it as a matter of serious concern for the commission, he said consistent with its policy to monitor the mental health sector, it felt necessary to evaluate the ground realities post-implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
"There is a requirement of 13,500 psychiatrists but only 3,827 are available. Against the requirement of 20,250 clinical psychologists, only 898 are available. Similarly, there is an acute shortage of paramedical staff also," Dattu was quoted as saying in a statement by the NHRC.
Sanjeeva Kumar, special secretary in the Ministry of Health, emphasised the need for more active participation of all stakeholders and highlighted the efforts made by the Centre towards improvement in the mental healthcare sector.
Only 19 states have implemented the Mental Healthcare Act so far, he said, adding that 10.6 per cent of the adult population in the country suffers from mental health issues, which is a "huge number" requiring a holistic concept of safety nets, legal frameworks and medical care facilities.
He appreciated the NHRC for its efforts in bringing different stakeholders to discuss the subject and improve the situation through a collaborative approach.
Earlier, Jaideep Govind, secretary-general of the NHRC, gave an overview of the commission's several engagements with reference to the mental health. He said that some states have introduced good practices which need to be replicated by others.
Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan and representatives of the various Union ministries, state governments, state human rights commissions, the Medical Council of India and Nursing Council of India, among others were present in the meeting.