SC passes directs Union, states to ensure treatment, education and equality for persons affected by leprosy

Pankaj Sinha vs Union of India & Ors
Writ Petition (Civil) 767/2014

This writ petition, filed in 2014, had brought the Supreme Court's attention to the suffering of persons living with leprosy in the country. It noted that although leprosy has been proven to be curable and manageable with Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT), millions still suffer from the social, economic and cultural stigma attached to it because of lack of awareness and misguided notions. Persons affected with leprosy also suffer immense discrimination due to denial of access to health services, education and livelihood options and are frequently consigned to live as marginalized sections of society deprived of human rights. Read an older order here.

The petition, therefore, sought the Supreme Court’s directions to the Union of India and the States to conduct a periodic national survey for determining new cases of leprosy, in addition to conducting regular awareness campaigns to dispel fears associated with the disease. It also sought that the respondents encourage patients lead a life of equality and dignity.

Its other prayers included ensuring the availability of MDT drugs and treatment free of cost at all Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the country and directing all health care institutions in the country to not discriminate against women with leprosy – in addition to issuing an order to all schools to offer free education and not discriminate against children from patients’ families. Further, the petitioners also sought the provision of hygienic conditions in leprosy colonies and to make Micro Cellular Rubber (MCR) footwear available free of cost to the leprosy-affected people.

The petition also prayed that the court direct the Union of India to frame separate rules to evaluate the disabilities suffered by leprosy patients to issue disability certificates under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

In response, the court passed a slew of directions to the Union and the states. The court’s judgement is attached below.