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 affirmative action.
The key aspects of the draft law are as follows: