Parliament passes Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019
The Parliament has passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018, which seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce. Leprosy is being removed as a ground for divorce as it is now a curable disease as against the earlier notion of it being incurable.
The Parliament on February 13, 2019 passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018 that seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce. The bill was passed after upper house of the Parliament Rajya Sabha approved it without discussion.
The lower house of the Parliament, Lok Sabha had passed the bill on January 7, 2019. Leprosy is being removed as a ground for divorce as it is now a curable disease as against the earlier notion of it being incurable.
The Bill seeks to uphold the rights of people with leprosy as the disease is curable.
It seeks to amend five personal laws- the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, Divorce Act (for Christians) 1869, Special Marriage Act 1954 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956- to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce.
• Leprosy as a ground for divorce is a "discriminatory" provision. The first attempt towards eliminating the bias against people suffering from the disease was made in 2008 when the National Human Rights Commission had underlined the need to make amendments in certain personal laws and other legislations.
• In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’, which was signed and ratified by India.
• Subsequently, the 20th Law Commission of India in its 256th Report titled “Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy” had recommended repeal of laws and provisions that were discriminatory against leprosy-affected people.
• In 2014, the Supreme Court had also asked the Centre and the state governments to take the necessary steps for rehabilitation and integration of leprosy-affected people into the mainstream including the steps to repeal the provisions where leprosy has been treated as a stigmatic disability.
• Hence, taking in regard the recommendations, Government decided to omit such discriminatory provisions from the Personal Laws.
The section states that earlier leprosy patients were isolated and segregated from society as the leprosy was not curable and the society was hostile to them.
However, as a result of intensive healthcare and availability of modern medicine to cure the disease, the attitude of the society towards them began to change.
The discriminatory provisions contained in various statutes against the persons affected with leprosy were made prior to the medical advancements rendering leprosy a curable disease. Presently, leprosy is completely curable and can be treated with multidrug therapy.
However, old legislative provisions discriminating the persons affected by leprosy continue to be active in various laws.
The bill aims to end discrimination against people suffering from leprosy. When it will get Presidential assent and become an Act, it will go a long way in detaching the social stigma associated with the disease.
Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases in recorded history. Also known as Hansen's disease (HD), it is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.
It primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the skin, the lining of the nose, the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.
The disease produces skin ulcers, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. If it isn’t treated, it can cause severe disfigurement and significant disability.
It is known to occur at all ages ranging from early infancy to very old age. It is common in many countries, especially those with a tropical or subtropical climate.