The Lok Sabha has passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018, which seeks removal of leprosy as a ground for divorce.
To this end, it seeks to amend five Acts: (i) the Divorce Act, 1869, (ii) the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939, (iii) the Special Marriage Act, 1954, (iv) the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and (v) the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956. The Amendment Bill proposes to amend the provisions in these Acts which prescribe leprosy as a ground for divorce or separation from the spouse. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill acknowledges the medical advances made in the field, thereby making leprosy curable. Calling for elimination of discrimination against leprosy patients in various statutes in view of such advancements, it states, “Leprosy patients were isolated and segregated from society as the leprosy was not curable and the society was hostile to them. However, as a result of intensive healthcare and availability of modern medicine to cure the disease, the attitude of the society towards them began to change. The discriminatory provisions contained in various statutes against the persons affected with leprosy were made prior to the medical advancements rendering leprosy a curable disease. “Presently, leprosy is completely curable and can be treated with multi-drug therapy. However, old legislative provisions discriminating the persons affected by leprosy continued in various laws.”