The Delhi High Court on August 8, 2018 decriminalised begging in the national capital, stating that the provisions penalising the act were unconstitutional and deserved to be struck down.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar ruled that the consequences of this decision would be that the trial, under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 against people alleged to have committed the offence of begging, will now be liable to be struck down.
• The provisions that treat begging as an offence or deal with ancillary issues like power of officers to deal with this offence "are unconstitutional and are struck down".
• The provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 that do not directly or indirectly criminalise begging are not required to be struck down and will be maintained.
• The court also ruled that the Delhi government is at liberty to bring in alternative legislation to curb any racket of forced begging after undertaking a thorough practical examination on the sociological and economic aspect of the matter.
Currently, there is no central law on begging and destitution and most states have adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which criminalises begging.
The Act prescribes a penalty of more than three years of jail in case of first conviction for begging and a beggar can be ordered to be detained for 10 years in subsequent conviction.
PILs filed by Harsh Mandar and Karnika Sawhney to decriminalise begging
The High Court was considering two PILs seeking by Harsh Mandar and Karnika Sawhney to decriminalise begging.
The PILs have sought basic human and fundamental rights for beggars in the National Capital, apart from decriminalising begging. They have also sought basic amenities such as proper food and medical facilities at all homes for beggars in the city.
The petitioners have also challenged the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959.
On May 16, 2018 the high court had asked the government that how begging could be an offence in a country where the government was unable to provide food or jobs.
In October 2016, the Union Government and the AAP government had told the court that the Ministry of Social Justice had drafted a bill to decriminalise begging and rehabilitate beggars and homeless people. But the proposal to amend the legislation was later dropped.
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