In September, India's Supreme Court upheld an Orissa state law declaring that a person with leprosy cannot stand for elected municipal positions. The top court was ruling on the case of a man who was disbarred from office in 2003 a few days after he was elected on the grounds that he had leprosy. The ruling came as a blow to all those campaigning for the social integration of people affected by leprosy, but served to highlight the existence of discriminatory statutes such as Orissa's.
The following month, however, there was a very positive development in India. A parliamentary committee issued a landmark report in response to a petition calling for the integration and empowerment of people affected by leprosy. Chaired by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, the former president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), this influential committee endorsed the petition and compiled a list of observations and recommendations to improve the lives of people affected by leprosy (see page 4).
Among these is the report's hope that the relevant ministries and state governments will urgently consider amendments to "anachronistic and discriminatory provisions in existing legislation." Given the subject of the recent Supreme Court decision, it would be heartening if Orissa became one of the first states to heed this call.