Won’t decriminalise begging, Centre tells HC about its U-turn
The Centre told the Delhi high court on Thursday that begging will not be decriminalised, making a U-turn from its stance a year ago when it said the ministry of social justice was working on a draft bill to decriminalise begging and rehabilitate beggars and homeless people.
“You (Centre) were taking one year time to produce this draft bill. It is very unfortunate. We are only concerned with Delhi and not the legislation as a whole,” the high court said.
The Centre’s standing counsel Monika Arora said, “We are not decriminalising it (begging). The proposal is dropped. The Central government has no Act on begging. The states are empowered to do on their own.”
To this, the high court said the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act was extended to Delhi by a Central government amendment and Delhi government cannot bring any notification on its own to remove it.
The court was hearing two petitions seeking basic human and fundamental rights for beggars in the national capital and for decriminalising begging.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for one of the petitioners, had earlier said that thousands of poor persons were detained due to operation of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, which provides drastic sentences.
The law prescribes a penalty of more than three years of jail in case of first conviction for begging and the person can be ordered to be detained for 10 years in subsequent conviction, he said.
Currently, there is no central law on begging and destitution and most states have adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which criminalises beggary, or have modelled their laws on it.
The pleas were first filed in the Supreme Court from where they were transferred to the Delhi High Court.
The HC termed the Centre’s move as unfortunate.