The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that awareness be spread about the free treatment available for leprosy patients and directed the central and state governments to formulate rehabilitation schemes for those suffering from the disease.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud issued a slew of directions to the centre and the states and asked them to ensure proper treatment of leprosy patients and end discrimination against them.
It directed that a "massive" awareness campaign be carried out by the government on curability of leprosy, adding that patients "should not be isolated" by the family or community as the person can "lead a normal life".
The bench directed to "end stigma" against leprosy patients and to make sure they get adequate medical care and rehabilitation measures.
It further directed that the Centre and state governments to ensure that both private and government aided schools should not discriminate against children affected by leprosy.
The court also directed that leprosy patients should be given Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards so they can avail Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme, which provides highly subsidised food to the poorest families.
The judgement of the apex court came on a PIL filed by advocate Pankaj Sinha who had alleged that governments have failed to eliminate the disease despite medical treatment available since 1981.
He had claimed that leprosy affects over 1.25 lakh people annually in the country and had sought a direction to the governments that leprosy drugs be made available at primary health centres in the country.
He also pleaded that an appropriate scheme be formulated to bring people suffering from leprosy into the national mainstream.
Earlier, the apex court had asked the Centre to consider framing a law to repeal all laws that discriminate against those suffering from leprosy and granted six weeks to the government for taking a decision on the issue.