Won’t de­crim­i­nalise beg­ging, Cen­tre tells HC about its U-turn

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - Front Page - HT Cor­re­spon­dent htre­porters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

HT FILE

The HC termed the Cen­tre’s move as un­for­tu­nate.

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