The Delhi High Court Thursday pulled up the Indian Air Force (IAF) for confining one of its non-commissioned officers, a corporal, to a psychiatric ward for over two months, over claims of him being an alcoholic and suffering from mental disorders. Terming the act of the IAF “irresponsible”, a bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel questioned the rationale behind the IAF’s decision, asking how it determined on a daily basis that the corporal still “craved for alcohol”.
“How were you determining on a daily basis that his craving for alcohol had not gone down? What tests were conducted by you? This is completely irresponsible. We wonder how many such cases are there,” said the bench.
The court’s observations were made while hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by the 30-year-old corporal’s father, claiming that his son was being illegally confined at the Army Base Hospital. Central government standing counsel Ripudaman Bhardwaj, appearing for the IAF, contended that action against the corporal was taken on a complaint from his wife that he turned violent after consuming alcohol.
He also submitted that the corporal, Kriyad Yogesh Bhankhariya, had alcohol dependency issues for which he was initially treated in the psychiatric ward of the Army Base Hospital, and thereafter, in June, was shifted to the medical centre at the Tughlakabad Air Force Station.
The bench, however, said that the IAF needed to be reminded not to interfere with a person’s liberty as “short of chaining him up, everything else was done here”. It directed that the corporal be produced in court Friday. It also said the newly-enacted Mental Healthcare Act made it clear that a person could not be forced to undergo treatment without his consent. “The IAF cannot ignore the laws of the country,” the bench remarked.
“This is a clear case where a man is saying he has been detained without consent. Under the new Mental Healthcare Act, you cannot force him to undergo treatment without his consent. Then how are you pumping him full of drugs? We do not know who should be proceeded against,” added the bench. It said if the non-commissioned officer (NCO) was an alcoholic, then the IAF ought to have sought the help of “Alcoholics Anonymous” on how to deal with the matter as any psychiatric would confirm that confinement of a person was advisable only in extreme cases.