Lok Sabha passes Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018

The Lok Sabha has passed the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The bill moved by Minister of State for Law PP Chaudhary seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce in five personal laws – Hindu Marriage Act, Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, Divorce Act (for Christians), Special Marriage Act and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.

Why the amendment was moved?

The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in August 2018. The bill was introduced as various recommendations were made to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce. Some of the recommendations are:

  • The Law Commission in its 256th report had recommended repeal of laws and provisions which were discriminatory against leprosy affected people.
  • India is a signatory to a UN Resolution which calls for the elimination of discrimination against persons suffering from leprosy. Leprosy as a ground for divorce was contradicting to the resolution.
  • In 2014, Even the Supreme Court had asked the Centre and the state governments to take steps for rehabilitation and integration of leprosy-affected people into the mainstream.
  • The National Human Rights Commission had long made a proposal for the government in this regard.

The Minister said that Leprosy is now a curable disease as against the earlier notion of it being incurable. Hence it would be wise to bring out an amendment in this regard.

Leprosy

Leprosy is a chronic infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Leprosy mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.

Even though the exact mechanism of transmission of leprosy is not known, the most widely held belief was that the disease was transmitted by contact between cases of leprosy and healthy persons. The possibility of transmission by the respiratory route is gaining ground more recently.

A centrally sponsored scheme National Leprosy Eradication Programme is being implemented in India to tackle the disease. India has eliminated leprosy as a public health problem, which means that there is less than 1 person in 10,000 infected with the disease. Even though the number seems low in percentage terms, when considered in absolute terms, it is humongous.

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