Matters to be Considered while Rendering Legal Services to Mentally Retarded Persons
Mentally retarded persons are not mentally ill persons - There is a confusion even amongst the legal community that mentally retarded people are mentally ill. Mentally retarded persons are suffering from mental disabilities due to developmental disorders. Mental retardation of permanent nature is not curable. They are, therefore, treated as persons with disabilities under Section 2 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (PWD Act). The statutory provisions for the welfare of mentally retarded persons are (i) PWD Act, 1995 and; (ii) National Trust Act, 1999. They also come under the purview of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 2008.
Legal services to mentally retarded persons (MRs) - The legal services institutions shall get in touch with the Social Welfare Department of the State Government and find out the different beneficial schemes for the MRs. Indian Railways and some State Governments have schemes for travel facility for MRs. The Income-Tax Act also gives some benefits to the parents of MRs. The legal services institutions shall attempt to make available the benefits under various schemes to the MRs and their family members.
Legal services for ensuring the health care of MRs – MRs like any other citizens are entitled to right to health services as a part of the fundamental rights.
Legal services for ensuring the fundamental rights of MRs – The legal services institutions shall provide assistance to the MRs for protecting their fundamental rights, equality and equal treatment.
Right to education – The policy in CRPD is an inclusive policy providing respect for MRs, evolving capacity of MRs, for preserving their identity, respect their inherent dignity and individual autonomy. The Convention envisages the right of MRs to get education on the basis of equal opportunity and for the development of their mental, physical abilities and creativity to their fullest potential. Therefore, the Legal Services Institutions shall always attempt to safeguard the above mentioned rights of MRs whenever they are found to be deprived of such rights.
Legal services for the benefits under PWD Act, 1995 – Legal services institutions shall assist the MRs for obtaining benefits under the PWD Act, 1995.
Prevention of exploitation and abuse of MRs – MRs are one of the vulnerable groups likely to be exploited. Female MRs are the most vulnerable of the group. Therefore, the legal services institutions shall come to the assistance of MRs in preventing their exploitation including sexual abuse and also for taking legal action against the abusers and exploiters.
Legal services for MRs for owing and inheriting properties and to have financial rights – Legal services institutions shall come to the help of MRs in protecting the rights of inheritance, owing properties and enjoying financial rights.
Appointment of guardians under the National Trust Act, 1999 – Loss of both parents often leads to a situation that the MRs become orphans. Therefore, appointment of guardian as contemplated under National Trust Act, 1999 is of great importance. Legal services institutions shall come to the assistance of MRs in the matter of appointment of guardian.
Need for setting up of a supported network – The legal services institutions with the help of the Social Welfare Department of the State Government, NGOs, charitable trust, relatives of the MRs and social workers shall encourage to set up a supported network at the local level for the welfare of MRs. The supported network in each locality shall take care of the MRs to ensure that the MRs are not becoming destitutes and their food, health and other essential needs are taken care of uninterruptedly.
Creating awareness campaigns amongst the other school children – It is important that the normal children are made aware of the fact that MRs and other persons with disabilities are also equally entitled to the rights provided by the laws and the protection of laws like any other persons. Therefore, the Legal Services Authorities shall on the World Disability Day organize special awareness programmes in the primary schools to create awareness amongst the young children to change their mindset towards MRs. Video films, charts, picture, skits and thematic presentations can be used in such programmes.
Awareness camps for educating the family members of MRs - The legal services institutions in association with the schools in their locality shall organize awareness camps for the family members of MRs. Services of specialists in counseling, psychiatric, psychological, social work and lawyers also can be made use of in their programmes. Siblings of MRs also may be included in such programmes.
Awareness programmes for the general public – Awareness programmes may be conducted for the general public to educate the public that MRs and other disabled persons also have the rights on par with the other normal persons.
Sensitization Programme for Judicial Officers and Lawyers - Special sensitization programmes can be organized with the assistance of Judicial Academy and bar associations for sensitizing judicial officers and lawyers about the MRs and their rights.