Mental illness and mental retardation are two different forms of disability. Under the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, mental illness is defined as a disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that impairs judgment, behaviour or capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life. Mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol or drugs also fall under the definition of mental illness. However, mental retardation has been defined as a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person.
Under the the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP Act), a guardian can make decisions on behalf of a ‘mentally ill person’ but the same cannot be done on behalf of a person who is in a condition of ‘mental retardation.
The MTP Act clearly lays down that obtaining the consent of the pregnant woman is an essential condition for proceeding with the termination of a pregnancy in the case of a person suffering from mental retardation.
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