Fitness to Stand Trial in India: The Legacy of Machal Lalung
Psychiatry, Psychology and Law
Volume 21, Issue 3, 2014
26 Jun 2014
The tragic detention of Machal Lalung in Assam in north eastern India for over 54 years after he was found unfit to stand trial on a minor charge of assault is sobering and confronting. He was kept in a psychiatric hospital for over 26 years and then, when found fit for release, remitted to a prison where he served another 28 years until he was released, an old man of 77. There are many lessons to be learned by institutions in all countries that deal with persons who have the potential to be out of sight and whose circumstances may not be subject to public awareness and effective monitoring. Complacency, prejudice and wrong assumptions can easily lead to liberty being compromised and even forfeited, thereby generating tragic outcomes for vulnerable persons.