THE SUPREME COURT ISSUES NOTICE TO THE CENTRE AND THE IRDAI REGARDING VIOLATION OF SECTION 21(4) OF THE MENTAL HEALTHCARE ACT, 2017

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THE SUPREME COURT ISSUES NOTICE TO THE CENTRE AND THE IRDAI REGARDING VIOLATION OF SECTION 21(4) OF THE MENTAL HEALTHCARE ACT, 2017

-Aakanksha Bhatia

Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) and the central government in a plea seeking directions to the insurance companies to provide adequate coverage for the treatment of mental health illnesses. The notice was issued by a bench of Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha, and B R Gavai to the union health ministry and the IRDAI.

The plea moved by Advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal predominantly draws the court’s attention to the violation of section 21(4) of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017, which states that every insurer is bound to make a provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for the treatment of physical illness. Further, he added, that despite the existence of the statutory provision for the same, as well as a letter issued a by IRDAI directing all the insurance companies to act in accordance with section 21(4), neither a follow up has been seen by IRDAI regarding its compliance, nor has any action seen against errant insurance companies for not adhering to the provisions.

The plea declares that the incorporation of section 21(4) is an outcome of the ratification of UNCRPD by the Government of India. Article 21 of UNCRPD deals with the prohibition of discrimination against Persons with Disabilities in the provisions of Health Insurance and Life Insurance.

The disservice according to the petitioner lies in the disinclination of IRDAI in taking immediate action against the insurance companies, and their casual stance on the inclusion of Persons with Mental Illness in the Health Insurance Scheme.

During the arguments, the Petitioner-in-Person also informed the bench that the bureaucracy of IRDAI was the main reason the provisions were not being complied with, and also this failure of compliance was leading to a lot of hardships for mentally ill persons.

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