Calcutta High Court To Monitor Mentally Ill Prisoners In Terms Of Sheela Barse Case

Calcutta High Court To Monitor Mentally Ill Prisoners In Terms Of Sheela Barse Case


In Re: Mental Health and Mental Health Care and allied matters concerning convicts/ undertrials detained in various correctional homes in West Bengal and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in terms of Supreme Court directions, the Calcutta High Court has registered a suo moto case. 

The objective of such case is, as mentioned in the order is, “to judicially supervise, monitor and oversee the mentally ill convicts/undertrials at appropriate intervals who are locked up in various correctional homes in the State of West Bengal as also, in the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.”

The second objective is “To pass suitable, appropriate and necessary directions as may be necessitated in order to improve the wellness/wellbeing/conditions of such mentally ill convicts/undertrials.” 

Such case has been registered on the basis of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Sheela Barse v. Union of India & Ors., (1995) 5 SCC 654.


The case was registered in the Calcutta High Court by the administrative directions, i.e., directions issued by the superior authorities in want of coded enactments or precedents in that particular regard, by the Hon’ble Chief Justice Thottathil B. Nair Radhakrishnan.

The case of Sheela Barse v. Union of India & Ors., (1995) 5 SCC 654 formed the basis of such suo moto case. 

The letter of Sheela Barse, addressed to the Chief Justice of India mentions “the deplorable conditions in which mentally ill and insane women were locked up and kept in Presidency jail, Calcutta, was registered as a writ petition.”

The order speaks of the suggestion of Sri S. Muralidhar, learned counsel for the petitioner (Supreme Court Legal Aid Committee), who “suggested that each High Court be requested to monitor and ensure proper and full implementation of the orders of this Court insofar as that particular State is concerned. We found the suggestion acceptable.”

The Supreme Court passed several orders after taking into consideration the suggestions of the counsel for the petitioner, Sri S. Muralidhar and the counsel for the respondent, Sri Harish Salve. 

The order stated “The High Courts are requested to register the record so received by them as a Public Interest Litigation. The Hon'ble Chief Justice of each of the High Courts is requested to designate a Judge of that Court to deal with the matter. The High Court shall make all such necessary and appropriate orders as may be warranted, from time to time, for a proper implementation of the orders of this Court. The High Court shall also be free to pass such other and further orders as may be found necessary or appropriate to protect and improve the conditions obtaining in places where women and children - not accused or convicted of any crime - are detained.” 


The Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, on observing that no such matter according to the directions issued in the Sheela Barse lay pending before the Calcutta High Court and Justice Shampa Sarkar has been nominated to deal with the instant suo moto case.

The petitioner in this case is The Legal Services Committee High Court, Calcutta.

The respondents in the case are:
    1. The State of West Bengal through the Secretary Department of Health and family Welfare,
    2. The State Legal Services Authority, West Bengal through Member Secretary,
    3. The Union of India through the Secretary Ministry of Health and family Welfare, and
    4. The High Court at Calcutta represented by the Registrar General, High Court, Calcutta.


The order states, “Registry is directed to prepare a list of the other respondents as per the administrative decision of the Hon’ble the Chief Justice with their addresses so that they may be impleaded as respondents on the next date.”

The order directs that notices are to be issued by the Registry to the Secretary, High Court Legal Services Committee and such other respondents who shall be represented on the next date of such hearing as is to be fixed by the Court.

The matter is listed to be heard on the 16th of April, 2021.


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