SC notice to Centre, states on plea against criminalising begging

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought response from the Centre and some state governments on a plea seeking direction to repeal provisions criminalising begging.

Petitioner Vishal Pathak, a resident of UP’s Meerut, had filed the plea through advocate H.K. Chaturvedi.

After a brief argument in the matter, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R.S. Reddy issued notice and sought replies from the Centre as also Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar. “Issue notice returnable in six weeks,” the bench said in its order.

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Plea cited judgment passed by the Delhi HC

The plea cited the judgment passed by the Delhi High Court in August 2018, which decriminalised begging in the national capital. Citing the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, the plea argued that this Act, which treats begging as an offence, cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny. Citing the backdrop of Census 2011, the plea said there are 4,13,670 beggars in the country and the number must have increased so far.

The petitioner contended that the presence of beggars is evidence that the states have failed to provide these basic facilities to all its citizens, therefore criminalising the act of beggary is irrational and against the approach of a socialist nation as embedded in preamble of the Constitution.

Right to Life

“The provisions of the statutes criminalising the act of begging puts 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,” said the plea.

The plea said that ‘The Abolition of Begging and Rehabilitation of Beggars Bill 2018’, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha, is yet to be passed by Parliament.

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