SC seeks reply from Centre, state governments on leprosy treatment and drug availability


PANKAJ SINHA VERSUS UNION OF INDIA AND ORS Writ Petition(Civil) No(s). 767/2014 The Supreme Court issued notice on 1 September 2014 to the central and state governments on a petition seeking availability of drugs for pregnant women suffering from leprosy and ending discrimination against children from the disease-affected families in educational institutions. A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Vikramajit Sen issued notice, returnable in four weeks, on a petition by HRLN Lawyer Pankaj Sinha who had sought directions for the availability of drugs at primary health centres and their proper administration for treatment of the pregnant women suffering from leprosy. Appearing for the petitioner, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves sought the direction that there be no discrimination in educational institutions, whether government or private, of the children of the leprosy-affected families on account of some kind of inhibition which had no constitutional sanction and same should be stopped. The petitioner also sought direction for extending banking facilities and establishment of such colonies for leprosy affected people where they can live for temporary period till they are cured. Gonsalves told the court that Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) which has been available since 1981 can cure 99% of leprosy cases but due to apathy of the central and state governments, people were still suffering from leprosy and facing discrimination and social stigma. The court was told that leprosy patients were not allowed to have “education, sanitary benefits, community based rehabilitation as a result of which they are driven to streets and eventually turn to begging or compelled to live in so-called leprosy homes where they are treated as unpersons or aliens”. Gonsalves told the court that because of non-concern, leprosy affects more than 125,000 Indians yearly though it is completely avoidable.