‘I Was Sent To Asylum For Raising My Voice'

When Ram Kumar (72) expressed his frustration over a case dragging for 10 yrs, the court didn’t take it kindly. Ram was sent to a asylum for ‘mental checkup’. Delhi High Court came to his rescue after 20 days   I was a police officer posted at Indira Gandhi International airport, Delhi.  Soon after retirement, I decided to begin my entrepreneurial journey. I bought a fleet of buses to be used for feeder services for Delhi Metro. In November 2007, one of the buses got involved in an accident with a young boy. Though the boy did not suffer from any injury and was discharged from the hospital within a day, the claims dispute has been dragging in the trial courts for the past 10 years. The case became the bane of my life. And on November 3, 2017, it led to the beginning of worst 20 days of my life. A hearing was scheduled in the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal at the Rohini Trial Court that day. I had decided to argue my own case and during the proceedings I got into a heated argument with the counsel of the opposite party.  I admit I lost my temper, but I was frustrated over the snail’s pace at which the case was being dragged in court. Amidst this altercation, the judge ordered the police official present in the court to take me to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. I was aghast. The police officials jumped into action. In no time, I found myself surrounded by a battery of doctors, at the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, who bombarded me with questions. I felt lost and helpless and fumbled for words while answering. After a brief examination based on my ‘erratic’ behaviour, I was referred to the psychiatric ward of the hospital for further medical examination. All I wanted was to go back home to my family. Meanwhile, my family members started to worry. I had made several trips to the court before, but this was the first time that I was unusually late. No one from the court bothered to inform my family about what happened at the court. After gruelling 24 hours, my son came to know from the police officers at the court that I had been taken to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. When he reached hospital, he found that a constable was manning the ward I was kept in, with the court order. No amount of pleadings or request could get me out of that hell. The hospital staff tried administering certain drugs. But I warned them that I was a heart patient and if they force any medication down my throat, they would have to face the consequences. On November 5, I was again produced before a magistrate. He was told by the hospital staff that they needed another 14 days to assess my mental health. To my horror I was once again taken back to the hospital. This time at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) in Dilshad Garden (East Delhi). All these days at the hospital, I slept on the floor. My family was worried sick. My health deteriorated –I was once again produced before the court on November 20.  And this time too, the court was told that my medical examination was still under process. And once again the court ordered to keep me under detention till January 5, 2018. By this time my family had understood that running from pillar to post at the lower courts would yield no results. My sons filed a habeas corpus plea and sought my immediate release from the hospital. Turned down by the lower court, my sons finally appealed the Delhi High Court. It was the High Court, where I finally got justice. The judges were appalled to find that I was kept under forceful detention without a mental illness certificate, which is must in such cases. My detention was illegal and unjust. They High Court ordered for my immediate release and pulled up the erring judges for the mistreatment that was meted out to me. Apologising on behalf of the subordinate courts, the judges took cognizance of the gross violations of the Mental Health Act. The court also ordered that my accident claims dispute should be settled in the next six months. The matter is settled now and the court has asked the insurance company to pay Rs 5 lakh to the complainant. I might have to appeal against the order. My heart goes out to those, who spend years pursuing a case; and also, to those hundreds of people, who are languishing in mental institutions. It’s a pity that our law makers and keepers choose to ignore issues related to mental health. I was fortunate to have a support system –my family to help me get out of the ordeal.]]>