Topics Covered: Government policies and associated issues.
Plea to decriminalise begging:
The Supreme Court has asked Centre and four States to respond to a plea to decriminalise begging. These states include Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana.
The court, in February 2021, sought a response from the Centre, and five States on the plea which claimed that the sections of the statute criminalising begging were violative of constitutional rights.
What’s the case?
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.
- 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.
Other Issues involved:
As per the Census 2011, the total number of beggars in India is 4,13,670 and the number has increased from the last census.
The government has the mandate to provide social security to everyone and ensure that all had basic facilities, as embedded in the Directives Principles of State Policy in the Constitution. However, the presence of beggars is evidence that the state has failed to provide these basic facilities to all its citizens.
- Therefore, instead of working on its failure and examining what made people beg, criminalising the act of beggary is irrational and against the approach of a socialist nation as embedded in the preamble of our Constitution.
Begging is also a peaceful method by which a person sought to communicate their situation to another, and solicit their assistance. Thus, criminalising begging is violative of Article 19(1)(a)-freedom of speech guarantee.
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.
- Key Provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Beggary Act, 1959.
- About Article 19(1)(a).
- Directives Principles of State Policy related key facts.
- Rights under Article 21.
Discuss why begging should be decriminalised.
Sources: the Hindu.