Begging in India: A Menace to the Society
3rd Dec, 2019
The J&K High Court’s verdict on the Beggary Act rejects the state’s fettering of guaranteed constitutional freedoms
- Since independence Government of India is playing an important role to render justice to its people in every aspect of life.
- But due to disproportionate distribution of wealth, poverty situation is caused.
- The poverty coupled with disadvantaged condition of life forced many to live like beggar in the society.
- Beggary is an age old social phenomenon in India. This system of begging and alms-giving to mendicants and the poor is still widely practiced in India.
- India has huge number of beggars and West Bengal has top the list of beggars among the states.
Meaning and Concept
- Beggary is defined as soliciting or receiving alms in a public places, whether or not under any pretence such as singing, dancing fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale, entering on any private premises for the purpose of soliciting or receiving alms, exposing or exhibiting with the object of obtaining or extorting alms, any sore, wound, injury, deformity or disease whether of a human being or animal, or having no visible means of subsistence.
- Beggars may be found in public places such as transport routes, urban parks, and markets.
- Beggars have existed in society since the inception of human civilization.
- Begging is witnessed in all most all societies around the world.
- The Indian constitution guarantees every citizen, the right to earn livelihood and the protection of social and economic rights.
- A right is claim of an individual integral to realize human rights and ensure individual freedom and dignity.
- Poverty is one of the most critical Conditions of life which touches human rights issue.
- Being a social welfare state, the constitution of India guarantees to all persons, without any distinction of status, the right to life and personal liberty.
- The Supreme Court of India has broadly interpreted Article 21 of the constitution and held that right to life mean right to life with human dignity, free from all exploitative condition.
- Court has made it clear that, the expression right to life in Article 21 includes Right to livelihood.
- Article 23 of the Constitution ensures right to life free from exploitation. It is designed to mean to stop beggar and other forms of human trafficking.
- Article 23(1) is to be read with articles 39(e) and 39(f) which impose obligation on the state for protection of persons against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Social attitude towards beggars
- Beggars are not treated well in the society. There is negative attitude towards beggars, because they are poor and lazy people rely on the others sympathy.
- There are very few person in the society those treat beggars with compassion and sympathy.
- They are treated as drug trafficker and chid lifter etc.
- There are many instances in which the states have shown negative attitude towards beggars and taken special drive to punish the beggars.
- It is believed that, beggars are obstacle to tourism and a scar on highly developed cities.
Legal Provisions against begging
- The Hyderabad Prevention of Beggary Act, 1941
- The Bengal Vagrancy Act, 1945
- The Mysore Prevention of Beggary Act, 1945
- The Bombay Prevention of Beggary Act, 1945
- The Madras Prevention of Beggary Act, 1945.
- The Cochin Vagrancy Act, 1945
- The Travancore Prohibition of Begging Act, 1945
- The Bhopal Prevention of Beggary Act, 1947
- The Bihar Prevention of Beggary Act, 1952.
Ram Lakhan v State (Case dealing with anti-Begging law)
- The Delhi High Court moved away from the judicial practice of castigating begging and upheld its legitimacy through a comparative discourse on the common law doctrines of necessity and duress, as well as on the principles of equality and liberty embodied in the Constitution.
- One significant aspect of Ram Lakhan is that it addresses the issue of begging from the touchstone of Article 19(1)(a), read with Article 21 of the Constitution, and asserts that unreasonable prohibitions on begging are unconstitutional in that they invariably deprive beggars of two fundamental rights.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 provides for an imprisonment for a convict of beggary (10 years). The Act prescribes following provision:
- Beggars may be arrested without warrant.
- They can be sentenced to jail without trial or may be sent to shelter homes/certified institutions.
- The punishment for beggary ranges from 3-10 years imprisonment.
- Court may pass detention of persons if totally dependent on beggar.
- Prescribes Penalty for employing persons to beg or using them for purposes of begging.
- Provisions are made for the teaching of agricultural, industrial and general education.
- Provisions are made for medical care of the inmates of the Receiving Centres and/Certified institutions.
- If any beggar detained in a certified institution, found to be of unsound mind or a leper, he/ she can be removed to a mental hospital or leper asylum as per provisions of the Indian Lunacy Act, 1912 and of the Lepers Act, 1898.
Beggary is a social problem and this has been accepted way of life. The government intend to abolish beggaries from the society. The states have taken a lot of measures to abate poverty. The move is good, but while implemented in the social milieu it causes harassment to the innocent people. It is perceived that, the rehabilitation strategy is not matching with the legal parameters. The attitude of the personnel of beggar home need be changed. The rehabilitation institution should not be treated as jail. It should have capacity to change the mind-set of the inmates those can find an alternative for sustenance.