A Bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice S Muralidhar took strong exception to such proposed action, saying ‘‘poverty is not a crime’’ and beggars cannot be forced to leave the capital.
‘‘It’s strange that a criminal can reside in the city but if someone is asking for alms, then he is thrown away,’’ the court said disapproving the government’s plan of action to combat the problem of begging in the capital, in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. The government has in a related matter before another Bench claimed that 90% of beggars in the city are migrants from neighboring states and it is co-coordinating with all these states to ensure that the beggars are sent back to their homes. It has also claimed that rehabilitation is being worked out for them.
The court has also sought the assistance of attorney general to deal with de-criminalization of begging as under Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, it is a criminal offence punishable up to three years of imprisonment if arrested for the first time and he/she can face to 10-year jail term for repetition of the offence. HC was hearing a PIL filed by social activist Harsh Mander, challenging the Constitutional validity of the Act.
On the last hearing, the social welfare department of the Delhi government has agreed that some of the provisions in the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, which considers begging a serious offence, leading to the immediate arrest of the person without any warrant, are obsolete and require amendments.