Union and States given directions to support and encourage leprosy patients to lead life with equality and dignity: SC

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ. disposed of a writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution wherein the Court issued various directions concerning the people suffering from leprosy.

The petitioner sought directions to be issued to the Union and the States to conduct periodic national survey for determining new cases relating to detection rate of leprosy and to publish and bring in the public domain the reports of National Sample Survey on Leprosy conducted in 2010-2011 and further to conduct regular and sustainable massive awareness campaigns for the general public to dispel the fear associated with leprosy and support and encourage the people afflicted by the said disease to lead a life of equality and dignity. In the instant writ petition, the petitioner drew attention of the Court to the fact that although leprosy as a disease has been scientifically and medically proven to be curable and manageable with MDT, yet the fact remains that millions of people and their family members still suffer from leprosy and the social, economic and cultural stigma attached to the said disease. This fact reveals the lack of awareness and the prevailing misguided notions in the society pertaining to leprosy. Due to the disability that entails as a result of the disease, the people affected by leprosy suffer additional discrimination in the form of denial of access to health services, education and livelihood options.

Keeping in view the factual matrix in entirety and the submissions advanced by the petitioner, the Court thought it appropriate to issue various directions to the Union and the States, which, inter alia, include:-

  • Periodical national surveys for determining the prevalence rate and new cases detection rate of leprosy;
  • Organizing massive awareness campaigns to increase public awareness about the signs and symptoms of leprosy and the fact that it is perfectly curable by the Multi Drug Therapy (MDT), every year on Leprosy day;
  • MDT drugs to be available free of cost and not to go out of stock at all Primary Health Centers (PHCs);
  • All-year awareness programs about National Leprosy Eradication Program (NLEP);
  • The awareness campaigns must include information that a person affected by leprosy is not required to be sent to any special clinic or hospital or sanatorium and should not be isolated from the family members or the community;
  • Healthcare to leprosy patients, at both Government as well as private medical institutions, must be such that medical officials and representatives desist from any discriminatory behaviour while examining and treating leprosy patients;
  • The possibility of including leprosy education in school curricula should be explored;
  • The Union and the States should endeavour to provide MCR footwear free of cost to all leprosy affected persons in the country;
  • The Union Government may consider framing separate rules for assessing the disability quotient of leprosy affected persons for the purpose of issuing disability certificate in exercise of the power granted under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016; etc.

The writ petition was disposed of in the terms above. [Pankaj Sinha v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 1502, decided on 14-09-2018]

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