Remove The Obnoxious Provisions Discriminating Against Leprosy Patients From The Statute Books: SC To Centre, States [Read Order]
Hearing a writ petition on behalf of the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy on the gross violation of the fundamental rights of persons affected by leprosy under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India by the continued existence of archaic, discriminatory provisions under 119 Central and State laws, the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud and Justice A. M. Khanwilkar on Tuesday urged the Centre and the states “to rise to the occasion” in removing the 'disability and social stigma' attached to such persons.
The bench also observed, “Be it noted that leprosy is absolutely curable. The Central Government shall monitor the states in adopting a sensitive approach...”
Senior Counsel Raju Ramachandran, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, informed the bench that replies of four states, namely, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim and Manipur have been filed. “Maharashtra has introduced a bill to delete one offending provision”, he added. It may be noted that inter alia the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act and the Maharashtra Prevention of Begging Act are certain statutes that contained provisions discriminatory of leprosy patients.
When the Counsel for a state submitted that the state allows leprosy patients to travel provided they possess a certificate to the effect that they are not contagious, Chief Justice Misra remarked, “Are you disputing the curability of the disease? We are aiming at deleting all obnoxious provisions from the statute books...This condition requiring the certificate is unacceptable...”
The counsel appearing for the Patna High Court informed the bench that the High Court Rules have been accordingly modified. When the counsel for the Meghalaya High Court sought to submit that he has been unable to locate any offending provisions in the Rules, Chief Justice Misra stated, “Please find something! This litigation is not adversarial”.
The bench on Tuesday noted that with the aid of strong medical campaign, akin to that adopted for the eradication of Tuberculosis, leprosy patients can be cured and imposed a simultaneous responsibility on the Centre and the states to ensure the administration of medicine to the patients. Mr. Ramachandran advanced that the said concerns form the subject matter of a similar petition by Advocate Pankaj Sinha.
ASG Pinky Anand also assured that the Centre is taking steps to delete from enactments such provisions which create stigma and disability for leprosy patients. The Bench on Tuesday granted six weeks to the respondent states to file their reply along with affidavits, listing the matter on July 5.
Read the Order Here