Free Press Journal

Will not decriminalise begging, Centre tells Delhi High Court


New Delhi : Begging will not be decriminalised, the Centre on Thursday said changing its stance in the Delhi High Court, which termed the move as “unfortunate”.

The government, which had earlier informed the court that the Ministry of Social Justice had drafted a bill to decriminalise begging and rehabilitate beggars and homeless people, took a U-turn saying it has now dropped the proposal to amend the legislation, reports PTI.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar noted that the government took one year to produce the draft bill before changing its decision.

“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 bench said.

The Centre’s standing counsel Monika Arora and advocate Harsh Ahuja 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 bench 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 noted in its order that while the Centre had earlier said it was proposing an Act to decriminalise begging, the Union of India has now taken a view that it will not decriminalise begging.

“In fact that day, the Centre’s counsel had given an undertaking to bring the draft proposal,” the bench said and listed the matter for hearing arguments on November 14.

The court was hearing two PILs seeking basic human and fundamental rights for beggars in the national capital and for decriminalising begging.