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Delhi High Court Decriminalizes Begging - (08 Aug 2018)


Delhi High Court strikes down the provision as 'unconstitutional' which made 'begging' an offence. Further, High Court observed that, criminalizing begging violates the fundamental rights of some of the most vulnerable section of society. The judgment is in wake of the Public Interest Litigations filed seeking to decriminalise begging and challenging the constitutionality and validity of all sections, except Section 11 of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, as extended to the NCT of Delhi on the ground that, it violates the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India.

It is further observed by High Court that, State has not been able to ensure even the bare essentials of the right to life to all its citizens, even in Delhi. People beg on the streets to fulfil their basic necessities of life. Begging is their last resort to subsistence. Criminalizing begging is a wrong approach as it ignores the reality that people who beg are the poorest of the poor and marginalized in society. Criminalizing begging adds insult to injury by arresting, detaining and, if necessary, imprisoning such persons, who beg, in search for essentials of bare survival, which is even below sustenance. Any legislation, penalizing the people is in the teeth of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The provisions either treating begging as an offence committed by the beggar, or deal with ancillary issues such as powers of officers to deal with the said offence, punishments and penalties to be awarded for the offence, cannot sustain constitutional scrutiny. Delhi High Court strikes down the provision that criminalizes begging as it violates fundamental rights of vulnerable people in society. However, the State is always at liberty to bring in alternative legislation to curb any racket of forced begging.


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