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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Legislation to repeal discriminatory laws against leprosy patients being drafted, Centre tells SC

India accounts for more than 52% of world’s lepers and over 1.24 lakh get added to the list every year.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2018 22:52 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
New Delhi

A comprehensive legislation to repeal various discriminatory laws against people afflicted with leprosy is being drafted, the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Monday. The new law would infuse affirmative action to bring those suffering from leprosy into the mainstream, the court was told.

Making his submissions before a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, attorney general KK Venugopal acknowledged that India accounts for more than 52% of world’s lepers and over 1.24 lakh get added to the list every year. Venugopal assured that the government was framing a law to stop discriminatory practices against people suffering from leprosy.

However, the bench was of the view that until the legislation is finalised, guidelines should be outlined to prevent discrimination. It gave two weeks time to the AG to come out with suitable suggestions so that appropriate directions can be issued to Centre and states.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO - Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy - seeking invalidation of laws that discriminate against persons suffering from leprosy.

Laws including the Hindu Marriage Act permit an aggrieved spouse to seek divorce if the partner is suffering from leprosy. Both Centre and states bar lepers from public employment. The petitioner has urged the repeal of at least 119 laws and rules which it said are discriminatory against those affected by leprosy, a curable disease.

Venugopal admitted leprosy was contagious. However, it was only at the initial state. After proper treatment, the patients can be brought into mainstream society, he said.

“If persons suffering from leprosy are to come mainstream there has to be some state protection. It is the duty of the collective society,” the CJI remarked, adding: “People don’t come into the open to say they are suffering from it. They try to hide it. They should not hide it. This mindset has to change.”

Leprosy, the AG explained, was on account of low immunity, poverty, unhygienic conditions, filthy surroundings and lack of knowledge.

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 22:47 IST

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