The Law Commission of India has submitted its Report
No. 256 on “Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons Affected by
Leprosy” to the Union Minister of Law and Justice today. The report also
provides a model draft law to eliminate discrimination faced by Persons
affected by Leprosy.
In 2014, India had the largest number of new Leprosy
cases globally (58%). From 2005 till 2014, the National Leprosy Eradication
Programme (NLEP) recorded a rate of 1.25 to 1.35 lakh new cases every year. A
majority of these are children, who are threatened with isolation and
discrimination at a young age.
Although Leprosy may cause irreversible disabilities,
with medical advances, it is now a completely curable disease. However, a major
obstacle is the social stigma associated with Leprosy, and many persons
affected by Leprosy continue to be outcast from society. Another problem is
that of Indian laws, which continue to directly and indirectly discriminate
against Persons affected by Leprosy.
In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously
adopted a Resolution on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons
affected by Leprosy, accompanied by Principles and Guidelines listing out
measures to improve the living conditions of such persons. Additionally, the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2007
(“UNCRPD”) promotes, protects and ensures the full and equal enjoyment of all
human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities.
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. However, the Indian government has taken no action to
modify or repeal any leprosy laws, or to eliminate discrimination against
persons affected by Leprosy. This is now an urgent need, and is the focus of
this report of the Law Commission.
Accordingly, along with its report and recommendations
on the issue, the Law Commission has prepared a model draft legislation, titled
“Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy (EDPAL) Bill,
2015”. This draft law contains principles of non-discrimination and equal
protection before law that must be guaranteed to all persons affected by
Leprosy or members of their family. It also seeks to promote the social
inclusion of persons affected by Leprosy and their family members through
The key aspects of the draft law are as follows:
Repeal and amendment of certain laws: Besides the repeal of the Lepers Act, 1898, the Law Commission
recommends the repeal of discriminatory provisions in various personal laws. It
also recommends including persons affected by Leprosy among the list of persons
eligible for legal aid under the Legal Services Act, 1987.
Measures against discrimination: The Law Commission recommends that persons affected by leprosy and
their family members must not be discriminated against in any institution. It
also guarantees to such persons the right to access healthcare, adequate housing,
education, employment and other such basic amenities.
Persons affected by leprosy are usually made to relocate to “Leprosy Colonies”
in India, but they do not have land rights, and are constantly under fear of
eviction. The Law Commission recommends that title and ownership of property in
Leprosy Colonies should be legalised, and if land rights cannot be given,
alternative settlement options must be explored.
Right to Employment: Many employers misuse existing employment laws to terminate
services of persons who are diagnosed with Leprosy. The draft law prohibits the
termination of employment of such persons solely due to their association with
Educational and training opportunities: The Law Commission recommends that the draft law should ensure the
admission of Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members in schools,
colleges and other institutes, as educational qualifications are necessary to
allow them access to employment opportunities.
Appropriate use of Language: The use of the term ‘leper’ and similar terms carries negative
connotation, hampers efforts for the inclusion of Persons affected by Leprosy
into society, and affects their sense of dignity as human beings. The Law
Commission recommends that the term ‘leper’ and other such terms in all
government and private documents should be replaced with ‘persons affected by
Leprosy’ or a similar term.
Right to Freedom of Movement: The draft law ensures that persons affected by Leprosy are
guaranteed the right of travel in public transport and the right to obtain a
Concessions during treatment: The draft law seeks to provide relevant concessions and monetary
benefits to persons affected by Leprosy who are undergoing treatment, for their
travel, lodging during treatment and medicines.
Creating awareness regarding the cure and transmission of Leprosy is the best
way to address the discrimination and stigma against persons affected by
Leprosy and their family. The Law Commission recommends that awareness about
the disease, its treatment and curability should be conducted through campaigns
and programmes in schools, hospitals, government institutions and private
10. Welfare Measures: The draft law imposes
specific duties upon establishments to execute certain welfare measures to
foster an environment for financial and social growth of persons affected by
Leprosy and their families. It also creates Central and State Commissions to
strictly enforce such measures, and provides for accountability measures in
case of non-enforcement.