22 Sep 2008, 2122 hrs IST,PTI
NEW DELHI: A leprosy patient cannot contest a civic poll or hold the post of a councillor or Chairperson of a municipality, the Supreme Court has held.
The apex court's verdict upheld the decisions of the Election Tribunal and the Orissa High Court that had upheld the provisions of the Orissa Municipal Act, which disqualify a leprosy patient from holding such posts.
Holding that these provisions are not discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, a Bench comprising Justices C K Thakker and D K Jain said "We do not find any infirmity or illegality in the judgement warranting interference."
Though the apex court noted that a news bulletin issued by World Health Organisation (WHO) had praised India's efforts to eradicate the disease, it was of the view that the district judge, heading the tribunal and High court was justified in coming to the conclusion that on the facts at the relevant time when a candidate had not fully been cured of leprosy.
"It is true that now with aggressive medication a patient may fully be cured of the disease, yet the legislature in its wisdom has thought it fit to retain such provisions in the statute in order to eliminate the danger of its being transmitted to other people from the person affected by the disease," the Bench said.
"Having regard to these circumstances, we are convinced that the said classification does bear a reasonable and just relation with the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question and cannot be said to be unreasonable and arbitrary," the Bench held.
Dhirendra Pandua had challenged the decision incurring disqualification to hold the post of councillor and chairperson in Balasore municipality on the ground of him being a leprosy patient.