NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to explain its stand on repealing 119 Central and state laws in force since 1950 that discriminate against leprosy patients and stigmatise and isolate them because of the disease.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra took note of a plea filed by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and asked the Centre to respond in eight weeks. “The seminal issue... is that there is no justification for treatment of a leprosy patient as a person to be kept away from the mainstream of society.”
Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for Vidhi, said at least 119 laws discriminated against leprosy patients, in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
“There are 119 laws that discriminate against persons affected by leprosy in broadly the following ways: they cause stigmatisation and indignity to persons affected by leprosy, isolate persons affected by leprosy, deny them access to public services, impose disqualifications on them under personal laws, and bar them from occupying or standing for public posts or office,” the plea stated.
“Even though treatment is now available, these laws rob persons affected by leprosy by denying them equal treatment under personal laws, in matters of employment and appointment or election to public office, as well as access to and free movement in public places,” the PIL said.
The petitioner cited the Law Commission of India’s report on Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy, which had mentioned the effectiveness of multi-drug therapy and recommended the repeal and amendment of provisions under eight Central laws that allowed public authorities to isolate persons affected by leprosy from the general population.