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Report No. 256

Chapter V

International Efforts in Addressing the Concerns of Persons affected by Leprosy and their Families

5.1 The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a Resolution on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy81 ("UN Resolution on Leprosy") on 21st December 2010. This Resolution recognised and strongly urged nations to abide by the Principles and Guidelines for the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy and their Family Members'82 ("Principles and Guidelines on Leprosy") adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2010.

81. UNGA res. 68/215, Sixty-Fifth Session, UN Doc. A/RES/65/215 (2010).

82. UNHRC res. A/HRC/15/30 (30 September, 2010).

5.2 The Resolution and the Principles and Guidelines substantiate the need for amending and repealing laws applicable to Persons affected by Leprosy and call on governments to pursue measures to end the discrimination of such persons.83 Specifically, they call on governments to modify, repeal or abolish existing laws, regulations, policies, customs and practices that discriminate directly or indirectly against Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members.84

Family members of such persons are included within the ambit of the Resolution and the Principles and Guidelines on Leprosy, in order to promote the understanding that Leprosy is no longer an easily communicable disease and is in fact curable through the MDT. The family members of Persons affected by Leprosy are exposed to discrimination and exclusion on account of their association with the Person affected by Leprosy.85

83. UNHRC res. A/HRC/15/30 (30 September, 2010).

84. UNHRC res. A/HRC/15/30 (30 September, 2010).

85. Strategic Framework for Reduction of Stigma & Discrimination, NLEP, available at
<http://nlep.nic.in/pdf/Stigma.pdf>, accessed on 25th January, 2014.

5.3 The Principles and Guidelines on Leprosy list out several measures for improving the living conditions of Persons affected by Leprosy. These measures include treatment of Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members with dignity, and on an equal basis with other members of society as provided for under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("UDHR"), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ("ICESCR"), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR") and the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As per the Principles and Guidelines, Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members cannot be denied the right to marry, the right to have children and the right to adopt. Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members are required to be given the same rights as everyone else with respect to (1) citizenship and identity documents; (2) recruitment policies; and (3) education and training in any field.

5.4 The Principles and Guidelines also calls upon States to uphold the dignity of Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members, through the repeal, amendment and modification of legislations to suit the needs of such persons and to ensure equality and non-discrimination of such persons through prohibitions and specific measures. The States are also asked to pay special attention to women, children and other vulnerable groups affected by Leprosy, while implementing its programs for the benefit of Persons affected by Leprosy.

Access to healthcare, promotion in standard of living, participation in political, cultural and recreational activities and reunification with family along with community living are also guaranteed under the Principles and Guidelines for the benefit of Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members. The key measures for the enforcement of the Principles and Guidelines include legislative interventions and awareness building initiatives that promote the inclusion of Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members into mainstream society.

5.5 The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2007 ("UNCRPD") also promotes, protects and ensures the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities.86 The UNCRPD does not specifically deal with Persons affected by Leprosy or their family members, but provides the framework for tackling their concerns through equal opportunity measures, awareness programs and prohibitions against segregation and discrimination on the basis of their disability.87

86. UN Doc. A/61/611 (2006).

87. UN Doc. A/61/611 (2006).

5.6 India has signed and ratified the UNCRPD, and is also a member of the UN General Assembly that unanimously passed the Resolution on the Elimination of Leprosy.88 Being part of the UN General Assembly, India has the obligation to suitably change or repeal its laws in order to make them more amenable to the present-day needs of the Persons affected by Leprosy in light of the UN Resolution that specifically calls on nations to abide by the Principles and Guidelines on Leprosy adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.

In this regard, Article 51 and Article 253 of the Constitution of India89 play an important role in entrusting the Parliament of India with the requisite power to operationalise this change or repeal the discriminatory laws discussed above, as necessary. Article 51 deals with India's obligation to promote international peace and endeavour to uphold its international obligations and commitments. Since the eradication of leprosy is a clear international commitment, the State is obliged to take all measures to ensure its fulfilment.

In this effort, it is aided by Article 253 which vests the legislative competence in Parliament to make laws in furtherance of India's international commitments, irrespective of whether the subject-matter in question falls in List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, i.e. within the legislative competence of the States.

Thus the Union of India has both the obligation as well as the competence to enact a comprehensive law eliminating discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy which is a key step in the eradication of the stigma associated with the disease in the country. This is now an urgent need when one considers that it has been five years since the adoption of the UN Resolution on the Elimination of Leprosy and no definitive action has been taken by the Government of India in the interim.

88. Data provided to the Law Commission of India by The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) (on file with the Law Commission).

89. Article 51 of the Directive Principles on State Policy under Part IV of the Constitution reads as:

The State shall endeavour to - (a) promote international peace and security; (b) maintain just and honourable relations between nations; (c) foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another; and (d) encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration;

Article 253 of the Chapter on Relations between the Union and the States under Part XI of the Constitution reads as:

Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, Parliament has power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body.



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