Reception order (RO) by a magistrate is a mode of involuntary admission provided under the Indian Mental Health Act of 1987. To the best of our knowledge there has been no evaluation of this provision in clinical practice. The present paper is a descriptive study through retrospective case-note review of patients admitted by way of RO to a tertiary care hospital in Goa. Compared with those admitted voluntarily, those admitted by RO tended to be single, middle aged (40–60 years old) and non-Goan; on average they had a significantly longer hospital stay than voluntarily admitted patients. Non-affective psychosis and substance use disorders were the more common diagnoses. While admissions by RO serve a useful role in bringing patients who are not under proper care into the mental healthcare system, they do not address the issue of aftercare.