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Report No. 256

Chapter VII


A. Repeal or Amendment of the Laws

7.1 In this Chapter, the Law Commission examines the specific provisions that directly or indirectly discriminate against Persons affected by Leprosy and therefore require immediate repeal, amendment or modification in order to make their application more amenable to the present-day developments in the treatment of Leprosy.

(i) Personal Laws

7.2 Under Section 13(1)(iv) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 2(vi) of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939, Section 10(1)(iv) of the amended Indian Divorce Act, 1869, Section 27(g) of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and Section 18(2)(c) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, Leprosy affecting either spouse constitutes a ground for divorce, annulment of marriage or separation without forfeiture of maintenance.

One of the main objectives behind the inclusion of these provisions under the relevant legislations has been to restrain the spread of the infection of Leprosy (given that it is a communicable disease) to the unaffected spouse. However as noted above in this Report, Leprosy is no longer an incurable disease and can be treated by MDT, which in its first dose itself kills 99.9% of the Leprosy bacillus and renders the infection non-contagious and non-virulent.

On account of this, the Law Commission recommends that an infection of Leprosy affecting either spouse should not by itself constitute a ground for divorce, annulment of marriage or separation. The need for repeal of these provisions has been recognised by the Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions in its Hundred and Thirty-First Report and in its Hundred and Thirty-Eighth Report.

(ii) Beggary Laws - including Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Begging Act, 1977, Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, Gujarat Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 and several other analogous legislations

7.3 Under all the State-level beggary prevention laws, the term leper has been used to refer to Persons affected by Leprosy. These laws also allow for beggars and their dependents who suffer from Leprosy to be detained or confined to Leprosy asylums indefinitely.

The purpose behind such detention and confinement relates to the notion that Leprosy is an incurable and contagious disease. However, as noted in this Report, this notion is incorrect since Leprosy is now curable by MDT. Hence, Persons affected by Leprosy should not be detained or confined to Leprosy asylums indefinitely only on account of their infection of the disease. Additionally, the use of the term leper is derogatory and contributes to the stigma associated with the disease.

Therefore, the Law Commission recommends that such a term should be removed from the statute book and all government records to curtail the perpetuation of the stigma associated with the disease. The need for the removal of the term leper under State beggary prevention laws has been recognised by the Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions in its Hundred and Thirty-First Report and its Hundred and Thirty-Eighth Report.

(iii) The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014

7.4 Under Section 2(1)(iii) of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 disability means inter-alia a Leprosy-cured person. The term Leprosy-cured has been defined under Section 2(n) of the Act and Section 9 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, to mean any person who has been cured of Leprosy but is suffering from

(i) loss of sensation in hands or feet as well as loss of sensation and paresis in the eye and eye-lid but with no manifest deformity;

(ii) manifest deformity and paresis; but having sufficient mobility in their hands and feet to enable them to engage in normal economic activity;

(iii) extreme physical deformity as well as advanced age which prevents him from undertaking any gainful occupation.

Under Section 2(t) of the Act, persons with disability are individuals who are suffering from not less than 40% of any disability as certified by a medical authority. Section 2(1)(c) of the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992 uses the same definition of disability with all its sub-categories, as mentioned under Section 2(1) the Persons with Disabilities Act.

As per TLMTI, the term Leprosy-cured does not appear to include Persons affected by Leprosy who are undetected or undergoing treatment and yet exhibit all or any of the three conditions described in the schedule. This term should therefore be amended to have a wider scope that covers larger number of persons who are affected by Leprosy, such as undetected Persons affected by Leprosy or Persons affected by Leprosy undergoing treatment.

7.5 Further, TLMTI has provided data that indicates that the 40% and above disability criteria under the Persons with Disabilities Act fails to cover persons cured of Leprosy with only Grade I disability, since the loss of sensation constitutes only 6-9% disability as per calculation process. On account of these observations, the Law Commission recommends that the term Leprosy cured needs to either be removed or broadened to cover all categories of Persons affected by Leprosy.

(iv) State Municipal and Panchayati Raj Acts - including the Orissa Municipal Act, 1950, Andhra Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1965, Orissa Gram Panchayats Act, 1964, Andhra Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act, 1993, the Rajasthan Panchayati Act, 1994 and the Rajasthan Municipality Act, 1959 and several other analogous legislations.

7.6 The provisions on eligibility in the various State Municipality and Panchayat Raj legislations listed above, state that Persons affected by Leprosy are liable to be disqualified from holding a civic post on the ground of their infection of Leprosy. The validity of these provisions has been upheld by the Supreme Court in its judgement in the case of Dhirendra Pandua. However, subsequent to this judgement, several nations including India, have taken note of the rampant discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy and have pledged through the UN Resolution on the Elimination of Leprosy to end all forms of discrimination and segregation against such persons.

Under Principle 5 of the Principles and Guidelines on Leprosy adopted by the Resolution, all States including India, have been vested with the duty to provide Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members, with the right to stand for elections and to hold office at all or any level in the government on an equal basis as others. In light of this Principle, the Law Commission observes that there is a strong basis to do away with the restrictions on eligibility of Persons affected by Leprosy to stand for civic posts.

Eliminating Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy Back

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