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Decriminalising Begging

Decriminalising Begging

Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and four States to file their response on a plea seeking a direction to repeal the provisions criminalising begging.
  • It has been argued in the plea that a person, who is compelled to beg due to certain circumstances, cannot be faulted for his actions.
  • Recently, the Ministry of Railways has also proposed to decriminalise begging on trains or railway premises.

What was the plea?

  • The plea has referred to the August 2018 verdict of the Delhi High Court which had decriminalised begging in the national capital and said provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which treats begging as an offence cannot sustain constitutional scrutiny.
  • The petition has sought directions to declare as “illegal and void” all provisions, except some sections, of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, Punjab Prevention of Beggary Act, 1971, Haryana Prevention of Begging Act, 1971 and Bihar Prevention of Begging Act 1951.                Decriminalising Begging
  • It argues that the provisions of the statutes criminalising the act of begging put people in a situation to make an unreasonable choice between committing a crime or not committing one and starving, which goes against the very spirit of the Constitution and violates Article 21 i.e. Right to Life.
  • The plea has claimed that the Abolition of Begging and Rehabilitation of Beggars Bill 2018 had been introduced in the Lok Sabha but till now, this bill is not passed and is wedged in length parliamentary procedures.

Beggars in India

  • According to the Census 2011 total number of beggars in India is 4,13,670 (including 2,21,673 males and 1,91,997 females) and the number has increased from the last census.
  • West Bengal tops the chart (81,000 beggars ) followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar at number two and three respectively. Lakshadweep merely has two vagrants according to the 2011 census.
  • Some studies indicate that 99 percent men and 97 percent women resort to beggary.
  • This number fell 41% since the last Census of 2001, which recorded the number of beggars at 6.3 lakh.
  • Among the union territories, New Delhi had the largest number of beggars 2,187 followed by 121 in Chandigarh.
  • Among the northeastern states, Asam topped the chart with 22,116 beggars, while Mizoram ranked low with 53 beggars.

Problem Caused by Beggary

  • Organized Crime
  • Prostitution
  • Economic Burden
  • Trafficking
  • Drug Abuse
  • Child Related Crimes

Beggary Laws In India

  • There is no central Act on beggary, however, many States and Union Territories have used certain sections of the Bombay Prevention of Beggary Act, 1959, as the basis for their own laws. The Act, 1959 criminalises begging.
  • Through these legislations, the governments try to maintain public order, addresses forced begging or “begging rackets”, prevent annoyance to tourists.              Decriminalising Begging

Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959

  • The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 criminalizes begging. Beggars may be arrested without warrant
  • Its aim is to remove beggars from their current illegal profession so that they may be detained, trained and eventually employed elsewhere
  • They can be sentenced to jail without trial or may be sent to shelter homes/certified institutions
  • Court may order detention of persons wholly dependent on beggar
  • The punishment tenure for beggary ranges from 3-10 years in jail
  • Penalty for employing or causing persons to beg or using them for purposes of begging
  • Provision for the teaching of agricultural, industrial and other pursuits, and for general education and medical care of the inmates of the Receiving Centres/Certified Institutions
  • Also, every person detained in certified institutions “shall at any time allow his finger prints to be taken”. This is violation of fundamental right
  • As per the act, if any beggar detained in a Certified Institution is found to be of unsound mind or a leper, s/he can be ordered to be removed to a mental hospital or leper asylum as per provisions of the Indian Lunacy Act, 1912 and of the Lepers Act, 1898

Best Practices by states

  • Maharashtra – Few municipal corporations in Maharashtra including Pune Corporation had launched ‘beggar free city’ campaign.
  • Odisha: The government of Odisha has adopted good measure to identify beggars provide them alternative remedy like Houses, Insurance coverage, Aadhar and Ration card, Healthcare facility, giving them training for vocational skills for wage or self-employment
  • Bihar- Mukhyamantri Bhikshavriti Nivaran Yojna to protect and promote the rights of beggars by ensuring their care, protection, development, socio-economic and cultural empowerment through enabling policies and programmes. MBNY is a Bihar state govt. scheme.                  Decriminalising Begging


  • Government should adopt a proper mechanism for identification and rehabilitation of beggars
  • The government should engage different stakeholders such as NGOs working with street children, traffic policemen etc. to eradicate beggary especially child beggary
  • A law is needed which respects the dignity of the destitute rather than penalizes them for being poor. The government must bring legislation to decriminalize beggary
  • Police should take action against the begging rackets
  • A follow up action should be adopted for the beggars who are coming out of rehabilitation center to assist in any challenges faced by them in integrating with the mainstream society



Mussoorie Times

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