India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006 (UNCRPD) and the Optional Protocol to it in 2007. The UNCRPD‘s objective is to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities from a social model unlike the earlier medical model of disability. It ensures that persons with disabilities become holders of rights rather than being objects of welfare measures and medical treatment (UN et al 2007). To that extent, ―the UNCRPD marks a paradigm shift in attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities and views them not as objects of charity, ‘but subjects with rights'(Murthy 2010: 153).
The current Indian law relating to persons with mental illness or disabilities is the Mental Health Act 1987 (MHA) which was enacted to replace the Indian Lunacy Act 1912. Considered to be a watershed moment in furthering the protection of persons with mental disabilities, the MHA, however, had its own shortcomings. It deprived persons with mental disabilities of their legal capacity to make decisions about their life, health care and property and it failed to alleviate social stigma surrounding mental disabilities (Trivedi 2009). Compliance with the UNCRPD warranted recognition of legal capacity of persons with mental disabilities allowing them to make decisions affecting their health and protecting their rights. Moreover, in the existing mental health care law, schemes and initiatives for any benefits were extremely insufficient, limited and scarce (Murthy 2011).