20th Law Commission submitted Report on Eliminating Discrimination Against Leprosy-affected Persons
In the report, the Law Commission recommended deleting the term 'lepers' and repealing The Lepers Act, 1898 in entirety.
20th Law Commission headed by Justice (retd) Ajit Prakash Shah on 7 April 2015 submitted the Report No 256 titled Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.
In the report, the Law Commission has recommended immediate repeal, amendment or modification of certain specific provisions in the laws applicable to leprosy-affected people in order to make their application more amenable to the present-day developments in the treatment of Leprosy.
- An infection of Leprosy affecting either spouse should not by itself constitute a ground for divorce, annulment of marriage or separation as provided in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Special Marriage Act, 1954 and Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
- The use of the term leper under State beggary prevention laws is derogatory and contributes to the stigma associated with the disease and hence such a term should be removed from the statute book and all government records.
- The term Leprosy-cured defined in The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 needs to either be removed or broadened to cover all categories of Persons affected by Leprosy. In its present form it does not cover Persons affected by Leprosy who are undetected or undergoing treatment.
- Recommends doing away with the restrictions on eligibility of Persons affected by Leprosy to stand for civic posts as required under various State Municipality and Panchayat Raj legislations.
- It recommends repealing of The Lepers Act, 1898 in entirety and amending The Legal Services Act, 1987 and The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
- It recommends the enactment of legislation under Article 253 of the Constitution of India that promotes the social inclusion of Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members through affirmative action.
Status of Leprosy in India
Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is one of the oldest known diseases. It is triggered by the causative agent Mycobacterium Leprae, a bacillus which was first discovered by a Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Armauer Hansen in 1873.
In 2014, India had the largest number of new Leprosy cases globally (58%). From 2005 till 2014, the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) has recorded a rate of 1.25 to 1.35 lakh new cases every year, a majority being children, who are threatened with isolation and discrimination at a very young age.
Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT), recommended by the WHO in early 1980s, comprises of powerful drugs such as Rifamipicin, Clofazimine and others in combination with Dapsone. Through Multi-Drug Therapy more than 15 million persons have been cured in last two decades in India.