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Report No. 256

Eliminating Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy

Chapter 1

Introduction and Background to the Report

1.1 As per the letter dated 24 June 2014 from Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister for Law and Justice, Government of India, the 20th Law Commission of India under the Chairmanship of Justice (Retd.) A.P. Shah undertook the task of identifying laws, which can either be repealed or which need change in light of the existing climate of economic liberalization.

1.2 The study titled "Legal Enactments Simplification and Streamlining" undertaken by the Law Commission, produced four interim reports on laws, rules, regulations and circulars ("laws") that are in force in India, which warrant immediate repeal or amendment.

1.3 In its Second Interim Report No. 249 on "Obsolete Laws: Warranting Immediate Repeal", the 20th Law Commission recommended the repeal of the Lepers Act (Act 3) of 1898, in consultation with the relevant State(s). Section 1(3) of the Lepers Act mandates that it shall not come into force in any territory until the concerned State Government makes a declaration to that effect.

Contrary to general conception, the Lepers Act continues to exist on the statute books of India, even though the States of Gujarat, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Punjab, Karnataka, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra, and the Union Territories of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh have repealed its application within their respective jurisdictions.

The Act provides for the exclusion, segregation and medical treatment of pauper lepers. It also provides for the establishment of 'leper asylums' and conditions for employment of personnel in these asylums.

1.4 The Law Commission recognised that the Lepers Act is completely out of sync with the modern understanding of Leprosy and its treatment through Multi-Drug Therapy ("MDT")1. As a result of its observations, the Commission recommended the repeal of the Act for being in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, owing to the forcible exclusion and segregation of persons affected by Leprosy under the Act.2

1. Recommendation 57, Law Commission Report on "Obsolete Laws: Warranting Immediate Repeal", Second Interim Report No. 249, Law Commission of India, Government of India (October, 2014) pages 32-33. ("Law Commission Report No. 249").

2. Law Commission Report No. 249.

1.5 The Law Commission also acknowledged in its Second Interim Report No. 249 that India is a member of the UN General Assembly that unanimously passed the Resolution on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy and their Family Members, 2010 (A/RES/65/215) ("UN Resolution on Persons affected by Leprosy and their Family Members")3. The Lepers Act, as mentioned in the Second Interim Report, goes against the spirit of this Resolution and therefore requires immediate repeal in consultation with States, which continue to apply it within their respective territories.

3. Law Commission Report No. 249 (n 1).

1.6 After the release of the Second Interim Report, The Leprosy Mission Trust India approached the Law Commission in late 2014, for further action in respect of laws applicable to the persons affected by Leprosy.

1.7 The Leprosy Mission Trust India ("TLMTI"), was founded in 1874 as 'The Mission to Lepers' by Wellesley Bailey.4 In its 140 years of existence, TLMTI has through a comprehensive, participatory and country-wide consultation involving Persons affected by Leprosy, endeavoured to promote and undertake various efforts for the benefit of Persons affected by Leprosy, which include awareness and advocacy programs, health-care and sustainable livelihood initiatives, and education, training and research.5

However, after India's declaration that Leprosy is no longer a public health issue, on the basis of a World Health Organisation ("WHO") standard,6 the cause of persons affected by Leprosy has taken a backseat in the Indian context, making it harder for TLMTI and other similar organisations working on Leprosy in India, to translate their efforts in a scalable measure to cater to the needs of persons affected by Leprosy. Complete eradication of Leprosy is however different from this standard of elimination as a public health issue.

4. The "Our History" page on the website of the Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI), available at
<http://www.tlmindia.org/index.php/about-us/who-we-are/our-history>,
accessed on 24th January, 2014.

5. The "About Us" page on the website of TLMTI, available at
<http://www.tlmindia.org/index.php/about-us/who-we-are>, accessed on 24th January, 2014.

6. 'Guide to Eliminate Leprosy as a Public Health Problem', WHO (2000), available at
<http://www.who.int/lep/resources/Guide_Int_E.pdf?ua=1>,
accessed on 24th January, 2014.

1.8 The 20th Law Commission took note of the commendable efforts of TLMTI in addressing the concerns of Persons affected by Leprosy through its awareness and advocacy initiatives. The Commission also recognised the need for the modification and repeal of existing laws, regulations, policies, customs and practices that negatively affect Persons affected by Leprosy and promote their exclusion, segregation and discrimination.

In light of these observations, the Law Commission has undertaken the present study on "Eliminating Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy" in order to provide the Government with a detailed insight into the level of discrimination and stigma associated with Leprosy, along with its constructive recommendations for a new model law to eliminate discrimination faced by Persons affected by Leprosy.

1.9 The second chapter of this Report deals with the disease of Leprosy and the current status of Persons affected by Leprosy. The third chapter examines the attempts made thus far in addressing the concerns of Persons affected by Leprosy in India.

The fourth chapter provides an insight into the domestic legal framework that facilitates direct and indirect discrimination of Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members, while the fifth chapter focuses on the international efforts in addressing these concerns through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN General Assembly Resolution on Persons affected by Leprosy and their Family Members, and the Principles and Guidelines for the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy and their Family Members'.

The sixth chapter offers an insight into the past and present practices in other jurisdictions in relation to Persons affected by Leprosy. The seventh chapter lists out the recommendations, including the specific provisions and laws that require repeal, amendment or modification and the proposal for affirmative action that promotes the social inclusion of Persons affected by Leprosy. The final chapter proposes a draft legislation in India that endorses the elimination of discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members through deriving its legislative competence from Article 253 of the Constitution.

1.10 In order to undertake the present study on Persons affected by Leprosy and to formulate the draft legislation addressing the abovementioned issues, the Commission formed a sub-committee comprising of the Chairman, Justice S.N. Kapoor, Professor (Dr.) Mool Chand Sharma, Prof. (Dr.) Yogesh Tyagi, Dr. Arghya Sengupta, Ms. Yashaswini Mittal, and Ms. Vrinda Bhandari.

1.11 The Commission would also like to place on record its special appreciation for Mr. Munish Kaushik, Ms. Seema Baquer and Ms. Nikita Sarah, the representatives of The Leprosy Mission Trust India, whose inputs were incisive, vital and require special mention. It appreciates the commendable efforts put in by Mr. Arghya Sengupta and Ms. Yashaswini Mittal of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and Ms. Vrinda Bhandari and Ms. Sumathi Chandrashekaran, Consultants to the Commission in finalizing this report. Ms. Ayushi Agarwal Law Student, provided research assistance.

1.12 Thereafter, upon extensive deliberations, discussions and in-depth study, the Commission has given shape to the present Report.



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