Report No. 249
57. Lepers Act, Act 3 of 1898
Category: Public Health
Recommendation: Repeal in consultation with relevant State(s)
The Act provided for the segregation and medical treatment of pauper lepers. The Act established 'leper asylums' and conditions for employment of personnel to these asylums. Section 1(3) of this Act mandates that it shall not come into force in any territory until the concerned State Government makes a declaration to that effect.
The Act has already been repealed in the States of Gujarat, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Punjab, Karnataka, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra, and in the Union Territories of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh.
This law, which is completely out of sync with the modern understanding of the disease and its treatment, must be repealed. The Act is unconstitutional for being violative of Article 14 of the Constitution because it legalises forcible segregation of people affected with leprosy.
India is a signatory to the United Nations Resolution on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy and their Family Members, 2011 (A/RES/65/215). This legislation goes against the spirit of this Resolution. Hence, the Central Government should inquire whether it is in force in any other State, and repeal this law in consultation with any such State.