Law Commission of India Proposes Landmark Legislation to End Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy

In March 2015, the Government of India announced its intention to repeal obsolete and archaic laws in India from the statute books and mandated the task of identifying such laws to the Law Commission of India. TLMTI’s Challenging Anti-Leprosy Legislation (CALL) project was working on the issue of discriminatory legislation at that time. The project, along with TLMTI’s Advocacy Domain took this opportunity to highlight the various discriminatory laws that allow for segregation and exclusion of people affected by leprosy, on the basis of the disease, before the Union Minister for Law and Justice, and the Law Commission of India, for their repeal.

The Law Commission of India, which had identified the Lepers Act, 1898, as an obsolete law and recommending its repeal in its 249th report, took a keen interest in repealing other discriminatory legislation. Retd Justice A.P. Shah, the then chairperson of the Law Commission of India formed a sub-committee with TLMTI as an expert member on it.

The submissions on the needs, concerns and issues of people affected by leprosy by TLMTI were taken into consideration. On the basis of the materials provided by TLMTI and the research done by the Law Commission of India staff, the sub-committee drafted a report – Report No. 256 on ‘Eliminating Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy – proposing legislation to end discrimination against persons affected by leprosy, to the Union Minister for Law and Justice, on April 7, 2015. Along with its report and recommendations on the issue, the Law Commission prepared 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 the law that must be guaranteed to persons affected by leprosy or their family members. Also, it seeks to promote the social inclusion of persons affected by leprosy and their family members through affirmative action.