QUESTION : Begging in India: A Menace to the Society . (Write an essay )






Decriminalising the Begging In India




The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and Delhi government on a petition seeking vaccination and rehabilitation of beggars in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in India.


  • It turned down the petition to restrain begging at traffic lights, markets and public places in light of the precautionary measures for the Covid-19 pandemic.


  • Begging, a socio-economic issue: The SC observed that people are generally compelled to beg on the streets to eke out some elementary livelihood due to the absence of education and employment.


o It required, instead, a welfare response from the state.


  • This order points to the largely ignored nexus between coercive measures and welfare issues, which can be a useful guide to making and implementing criminal law in three ways.




  • In February 2020, the SC sought a response from the Centre and five States (Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar) on a plea related to decriminalisation of beggary.


  • The plea referred to the Delhi High Court August 2018 verdict which decriminalised begging in the national capital and the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959, which treats begging as an offence.


  • It highlighted that the total number of beggars in India is 4,13,670 (Census 2011) and the number has increased from the last census.


  • A notice was issued to all these states, however, only Bihar had so far filed its response.





  • Decriminalising beggary


o The Delhi High Court which had decriminalised begging in the national capital said provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which treats begging as an offence cannot sustain constitutional scrutiny.


 In Harsh Mander & Anr. v. Union of India (2018), it had noted that the criminalisation of beggary served only to invisibilise beggars without doing anything to address the structural deprivations that drove people to beg.


 Bombay Prevention of Begging Act of 1959 makes begging a serious offense which is compoundable and non-bailable.


o The provisions of the statutes criminalising the act of begging put people in a situation to make an unreasonable choice between committing a crime or not committing one and starving, which goes against the very spirit of the Constitution and violates Article 21 i.e. Right to Life.


o Government’s duty to provide social welfare: The High Court in Suhail Rashid Bhat v. State of Jammu & Kashmir and Others (2019), “Begging is also in fact evidence of the failure of the Government as well as the society at large to protect its citizens from debilitating effects of extreme poverty and to ensure to them basics of food, clothing, shelter, health, education, essential concomitants of the right to life ensured under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”


o Similarly, the criminalisation of triple talaq by the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, purportedly to ‘protect’ Muslim women, does nothing to address the structural gender inequality, social stigma, poor employment options, and lack of state support which actually cause the deprivations associated with divorce.




  • The Persons in Destitution (Protection, Care and Rehabilitation) Model Bill, 2016, was introduced by the government to address the issue of chronic beggary and homelessness in India.


o This bill suggested that the law enforcement should focus on rehabilitation rather than on persecution.


o It also proposed that the government should maintain centres to provide vocational training, counseling, etc. and should help in rehabilitating the destitute.


o It had many progressive provisions, such as establishment of “outreach and mobilisation unit” to identity and recommend destitutes for rehabilitation, vocational training/skill development and other necessary rehabilitative services at care centres, creating a central fund which would supplement the fund of states for the rehabilitation program etc.


o The bill has been circulated to various states and is awaiting their inputs.




  • Beggary and homelessness is prevalent in India due to many reasons, chief among them being greater economic segregation and insufficient access to affordable and high-quality education.


  • According to the 2011 Census, there are about 4.13 lakhs of beggars and homeless people in India, of which non-workers comprise approximately 90 percent and under-marginal workers comprise the remaining 10 percent.


  • It was also reported that the 90 percent of the total reported vagrants (beggars and homeless people) are under the age of 14. It should be also noted that the data is approximately seven years old and the situation is bound to have worsened.


  • The incidence of mafia-controlled begging and human trafficking further complicates matters. It is reported that almost 3,00,000 kids are forced to beg everyday by human trafficking cartels most of whom are missing and are intentionally maimed so that they receive more money (out of sympathy).




  • The Indian Constitution under Article 21 guarantees right to life, which does not merely involve the act of breathing but also incorporates the right to live with dignity, with livelihood, with good health and all other aspects which make a human life meaningful and wholesome.


  • Beggary can be classified as exploitation and is also against Article 23 (right of life free from exploitation) of the Constitution.




  • Focusing on the welfare aspect of exploitative practices also sheds light on structural forms of impoverishment, and on who is most likely to be exploited as a result.


o It is, thus, largely those marginalised and discriminated against based on gender, caste, class and even age who occupy the ranks of beggars, sex workers, bonded labourers, and child labourers.


o The condition is worsening due to lack of any comprehensive policy addressing the issue of beggary.


  • Shortcomings of Extant Laws: As of now, there is no law protecting beggers and most states have adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which criminalises begging.

o Numerous other provisions such as arrest without warrant, guilty by association, etc. also depict the bias against the beggars.


o For example, Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children Act), 2015 identifies child beggars as “child in need of care and protection”, which clashes with the persecutive provision of Bombay Prevention of Begging Act.


  • Socio-economic marginalisation and poverty may frequently make people susceptible to exploitation, whether through poorly paid/unpaid labour, trafficking and sex work, or indeed, begging.


o Criminalisation of exploiters: It is important to ensure that pimps, brothel owners, and traffickers are held criminally liable for sexually exploiting a person.


o Welfare measures for exploited: Equally important is to create alternative, well-paying and dignified employment, to make such employment accessible by imparting requisite education and skills, and to have social security nets.


o This is essential not only to prevent exploitative practices, but also to rehabilitate those who have been rescued (and/or those who would like an exit option) from such practices.




  • In India, there is no central law on beggary yet and states use the extended colonial Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which criminalizes beggary.


  • Neither the Indian Penal Code (IPC) nor the Act explain what is meant by “soliciting alms” or what constitutes a “public place”, leading to ambiguity, inconsistency and abuse in the practical implementation of the law.


  • Also, there is no proper enumeration of beggars in the country and the number of women and children is ever increasing.


o The 1931 census mentioned just 16% women beggars which shot up to 49% in 2001 and there are 10 million street children many among who beg for livelihood.


  • The sections of the statute criminalising begging were violative of constitutional rights.


o Criminalising begging violates the most fundamental rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.


o People in this stratum do not have access to basic necessities such as food, shelter and health, and in addition, criminalising them denies them the basic fundamental right to communicate and seek to deal with their plight.


  • The provisions of the statutes criminalising the act of begging put people in a situation to make an unreasonable choice between committing a crime or not committing one and starving. It goes against the spirit of the Constitution and violates Article 21 i.e. Right to Life.


  • The presence of beggars is evidence that the state has failed to provide these basic facilities to all its citizens, thus instead of working on its failure and examining what made people beg, criminalising the act of beggary is irrational.


  • The Abolition of Begging and Rehabilitation of Beggars Bill, 2018 was introduced in the Lok Sabha but has not been passed yet.


  • The absence of a uniform law governing beggary has resulted in thousands of poor facing more hardships because of arbitrary statute.


  • Changing the attitude towards beggars is also a huge concern.




  • The government should provide social security to everyone and ensure that all have basic facilities, as embedded in the Directives Principles of State Policy in the Constitution.


  • All provisions, leaving some sections, of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959, Punjab Prevention of Beggary Act 1971, Haryana Prevention of Begging Act 1971 and Bihar Prevention of Begging Act 1951 should be declared as “illegal and void”.


  • The Abolition of Begging and Rehabilitation of Beggars Bill 2018 should be passed to clear the arbitrary statute of beggary and finish the perils of the beggars.


  • Diagnosing the problem of begging and addressing the root causes will automatically lead to the solution of this problem.

o The root cause is poverty, which has many structural reasons: no access to education, social protection, discrimination based on caste and ethnicity, landlessness, physical and mental challenges, and isolation.


  • The solution calls for a comprehensive programme and reorientation of the existing programmes. Philanthropic approach to the beggar problem should be replaced by therapeutic and rehabilitative work.


  • India as a nation needs to think for its begging population. With the nation aspiring to achieve world standards in every field socio-economic measures are needed to curb the begging problem in India.




Finally, when evaluating the function or necessity of a criminalisation response to something that is essentially or even partly a welfare issue, it is crucial to question whose interests the law does, in fact, serve. Only by following these interests can we, as citizens, hope to hold the state accountable in its use of the power to criminalise conduct.



QUESTION : Discuss the role of government in protecting the fundamental and the human rights while taking account into the national security .






National Security and Impact on Human Rights and Civil Liberties




The Pegasus revelations reflect an attack on Indian democracy and Indian citizens.




  • Through targeted surveillance system


  • Constitutional duty of government: The government has a constitutional duty to protect the fundamental and human rights of its citizens, irrespective of who they are.


  • Through the rule of law


  • Good governance can play a key role security the rights of a citizen.


  • The Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing, and the National Security Council Secretariat should have forewarned the government and citizens against such surveillance seriously violating privacy and fundamental rights.


  • The Supreme Court, in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017), declared privacy a constitutionally protected value.




  • India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


  • Arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence.


  • Unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”


  • In K.S. Puttaswamy, the Supreme Court noted India’s commitments under international law and held that by virtue of Article 51 of the Constitution, India has to endeavour to “foster respect for international law and treaty obligations…”


  • The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 is a fallout of this commitment.




  • The annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in 2014 made recommendations on “digital communications technologies”.


  • Judicial oversight: The UNHCHR report stated, judicial involvement that meets international standards can help to make it more likely that the overall statutory regime will meet the minimum standards that international human rights law requires.


  • At the same time, the report stated that judicial involvement in oversight should not be viewed as a panacea.


  • Independent body: The report also recommended an independent oversight body to keep checks.


  • Effective remedy to victim: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires states parties to ensure that victims of violations of the Covenant have an effective remedy.


  • Role of business: The report also dealt with the role of businesses and stated that when a state requires that an information and communications technology company provide user data, it can only supply it in respect of legitimate reasons.


  • Earlier, due to concerns of member states, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 68/167 affirming that rights held by people offline must also be protected online.
  • The resolution also called upon all states to respect and protect the right to privacy, including in digital communication.




Indians have a right to call upon NSO to terminate the agreement, if any, with the Indian government or any private player and to cooperate with citizens to unravel the truth.

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