Despite the grooming medical science in the state, Rajasthan still discriminates against leprosy patients under section 19(f) of the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act 1994, which debars a leprosy patient from contesting panchayat elections.
According to Section 19(f) ‘a person is disqualified if he/she is a leper or is suffering from any other bodily or mental defect or disease rendering him incapable of work.”
Displeased with ever ongoing law of debarring leprosy patients from Panchayati Raj elections, Kavitha Srivastav, President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said that government is ‘regressive’.
Kavita said that “science has advanced and leprosy is now curable. The state government has been following a policy of exclusion as far as panchayat raj is concerned. Whether it is the two-child norm, educational qualifications, having toilets at home or leprosy, the government seems more focused on who to exclude from elections at lower levels. These are regressive measures that discriminate against people on one pretext or the other.”
When asked to the state election commissioner Prem Mehra regarding the same, he remarked “It is the government that defines the conditions of eligibility of candidates. The commission’s role is limited and well defined. The state election commission’s role is to conduct panchayat and local body elections on time every five years without failure. However, the commission is free to give proposals to the government.”
However, the Supreme Court said that “Persons suffering from leprosy also have the right to live with human dignity. It is the duty of the Centre and the states to ensure that leprosy patients are rehabilitated and brought to the mainstream.”
Following the intervention of Supreme Court and the pressure from the public, the reports suggest that amendments under Section 19(f) will soon be announced.
“We are in the process of amending the provision. The amendment bill is ready and may be moved in the next session of the state assembly,” A senior official in the panchayat raj department told.