In February 2019, the President assented on The Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019. To eradicate the prejudice faced by patients in India, the act removes leprosy as the basis of divorce covering all religions in our country. The laws stigmatize and isolate leprosy patients as there was a common belief that leprosy can't be cured, but with modernized medicine, it is completely curable and can be medicated through multidrug medicine. This act necessitates an amendment in five marriage associated legislation which is Hindu Marriage Act (1955), Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act (1939), Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956) Divorce Act (1869) and Special Marriages Act (1954).
Section 13 of this act provided for the grounds for dissolution of marriage and under sub-section 1, clause (iv), marriage, on a petition presented by either the husband or the wife, be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground that the other party have been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of leprosy. Due to this, the marriage was subjected to the passing of the decree of the dissolution of marriage. But with the enforcement of personal laws amendment act, the clause has been now omitted.
- Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939
Section 2 of this act provided for the ground for a decree for dissolution of marriage. Under clause (vi) of this section, a woman married under Muslim law shall be entitled to obtain a decree for the dissolution of her marriage if the husband has been insane for a period of two years or is suffering from leprosy a virulent venereal disease. Now with the personal laws amendment act 2019, the particular clause is being omitted.
- Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956
Section 18, subsection 2, clause (c) mentioned that a Hindu wife should be entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance if the husband is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy. However, with the enforcement of the Personal laws amendment act 2019, the particular clause has now been omitted.
Section 10 of the act before the amendment provided for the ground on which marriage can be dissolved. Sub-section 1, clause (iv) provides that marriage on a petition presented to the District Court either by the husband or the wife, be dissolved on the ground that since the solemnization of the marriage, the respondent has, for a period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition, been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of leprosy. On this basis, marriage was subjected to dissolution. Now with the enforcing of personal laws amendment act 2019, this section has been amended.
- Special Marriages Act, 1954
Section 27 Of this act provided for the grounds of divorce. Subsection 1 clause g states that a divorce petition may be presented to the District Court either by the husband or the wife on the ground that the respondent has been suffering from leprosy, the disease not having been contracted from the petitioner. Because of this, the marriage was subjected to divorce. But with the enforcement of the personal laws amendment act 2019, this clause has now been omitted.
Leprosy is a disease usually caused by mycobacterium. The skin and outer nerves are affected by this disease, especially. When the individual sneezes or coughs, leprosy gets spread by the infected person. Now, this disease is curable with modern medicine, but still, society has a certain stigma left of it. The enforcement of the Personal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019 is a phenomenal reform brought by the parliament to eliminate the decades-old stigma associated with the persons suffering from the ailment of leprosy. While the government may have to handle the legislative part, society has an even larger role to play. It is important to approach leprosy in a dual way, where care and social injustice are dealt with.