A court in New Delhi has struck down a law that made begging in the Indian capital a crime, a major victory for campaigners who have long argued that the legislation was being used to harass and intimidate the homeless and the poor.
In an order on Wednesday, the Delhi High Court declared several provisions of the legislation to be unconstitutional.
“People beg on the streets not because they wish to, but because they need to. Begging is their last resort to subsistence,” acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Hari Shankar wrote in the 23-page order.
“Criminalising begging is a wrong approach to deal with the underlying causes of the problem (and) violates the fundamental rights of some of the most vulnerable people.”
India has no federal law on begging and destitution. About 20 states had adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which carries a penalty of detention of three to 10 years in so-called beggar homes.
Rights campaigners have argued that the law’s description of begging was overly broad, and that it allowed the police to detain or arrest anyone who is poor or homeless, including nomadic communities, street performers and migrant workers. Read more