New Delhi: Leprosy cannot be a ground for divorce anymore. The Government of India has notified the Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019. The Act omits leprosy as a ground for divorce from various statutes governing marriage in India.
The following are the statutes and the provisions deleted.
a). Divorce Act, 1869 – In section 10, in sub-section (1), clause (iv) is omitted.
b). Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 – In section 2, in ground (vi), the words “leprosy or” is omitted.
c). Special Marriage Act, 1954 – In section 27, in sub-section (1), clause (g) is omitted.
d). Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 – In section 13, in sub-section (1), clause (iv) is omitted.
e). Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 – Section 18, in sub-section (2), clause (c) is omitted.
The first attempt towards eliminating the bias perpetuated by Indian laws against people suffering from the disease was made in 2008, when the National Human Rights Commission recommended amendments in certain personal laws and other legislations.
In 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’. It was signed and ratified by India. Subsequently, the Law Commission of India in its 256th Report recommended the elimination of discrimination against people affected by Leprosy.
More recently, the Supreme Court issued a slew of directions to the Central and State governments in order to spread awareness about leprosy. The judgment also contained directions to facilitate a life of equality and dignity for those affected by the disease.
The PIL filed by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy averred that at least one hundred and nineteen statutes (both Central and State) discriminate against patients affected by the disease and that the same are violative of fundamental rights under the Constitution.