The House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee endorsed a controversial bill Tuesday on procedures for hospitalizing mentally impaired lawbreakers, paving the way for its enactment Thursday during the chamber’s plenary session.

The bill, under deliberation for three legislative sessions, cleared the House of Councilors on June 6, three days after the ruling coalition forced it through the Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee.

The government proposed the legislation during the ordinary Diet session last year. But the opposition continued to claim the proposed law would lead to prolonged hospitalization of mentally disabled lawbreakers, arguing that it fails to set a clear condition for their release.

The proposed law targets mentally impaired people who face criminal charges but are unfit to be indicted or stand trial, as well as those who have their cases thrown out or their sentences commuted due to their diminished mental state.

It would give the courts the authority to decide whether these people should be hospitalized or required to make regular hospital visits after discussing their cases with a court panel consisting of judges and psychiatrists.

If a court panel decides hospitalization is needed, the mentally impaired party must be admitted into special units at public hospitals under a standard laid down by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The panels would also discuss whether hospital stays need to be extended after receiving status reports from the hospitals every six months.

Even if a panel decides there is no need for hospitalization, people judged mentally incompetent to assume responsibility for crimes they committed would have to see doctors regularly at similar special units for at least three years.

The panels would then decide whether they need more treatment.

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