Centre Drafts Bill to Decriminalize Beggary

The government has drafted a Bill, which seeks to decriminalize beggary and offer a life of dignity to the beggars, homeless and others who live in abandonment or poverty. Begging is presently considered as a crime according to the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959. Under the Act, a person found begging will be sent to a shelter home or even to jail without any trail. The persons in destitution (protection, care and rehabilitation) Bill 2015 looks at the issue as a social threat. Here in the Bill, the destitution refers to the state of poverty or abandonment, people with physical and mental disabilities, the old, infirm, homeless, and beggars.

The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959

  • The Act was adopted by the Union Territory of Delhi in 1960
  • It criminalizes begging.
  • Aims to remove beggars from their present illegal profession, so that they may be detained, trained and eventually employed.
  • The act is considered as a violation of rights amongst activists and advocates of homeless people.

An Overview of provisions in the act – Relevant to children of ages 0-18

  • Under this act, a child is defined as a boy who has not completed 16 years of age and a girl who has not completed 18 years of age.
  • According to the act, beggars found guilty by a court of law were sentence to a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years in Beggar’s Home (Certified Institution). The detainment is also for beggars dependents unless the dependant is child.
  • The child is dependent of the beggar or is found guilty then the child will be sent to the courts under the Children Act 1960 and will be handled according to the provisions of that act.
  • The act also sends the person to prison for minimum of one year and a maximum of three years who solicits or exploits a child to beg for alms.
  • The act also says that a person who doesn’t complies with the rules of the certified institution could be detained.
  • People who are leprosy patients or lunatics also detained by the provision of the act.
  • The law has not been amended to meet the new provisions for children under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  • The Human Rights Law Network admonishes the law for being ‘archaic and colonial’ with racist feeling and was enacted to clear the poor away from the upper class areas.

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