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Draft Bill to decriminalise begging ready, Centre tells High Court

The Ministry of Social Justice has drafted a bill to decriminalise begging and rehabilitate beggars and homeless people, the Centre and AAP government told Delhi High Court on Thursday.

The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal which directed the ministry to place on record a copy of the draft legislation –The Persons in Destitution (Protection, Care and Rehabilitation) Model Bill, 2016.

The court was hearing two PILs seeking basic human and fundamental rights for the beggars in the national capital and for decriminalising begging.

Advocate Kushal Kumar, appearing for the ministry, told the court that pre-legislative consultation meeting with representatives from states and union territories was recently organised to seek their opinions.

He said the Centre has asked all stakeholders to share their views and suggestions for eradication of poverty.

Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot had said at a pre-legislative consultation meeting that the Bill “will provide protection, care, support, shelter, training and other services to all persons in destitution”.

The approach of the Ministry towards addressing the problem of destitution and beggary was “rehabilitative rather than punitive,” he had said.

The Ministry had also then said that the model law was drafted on recommendations from the National Consultation Meetings held with state representatives and experts in the field of beggary.

Currently, there is no central law on begging and destitution and most states have adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, which criminalises beggary, or have modelled their laws on that basis. The two petitions have challenged the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act.

The bench asked the ministry to furnish a copy of the draft bill to the petitioners, Harsh Mandar and Karnika Sawhney, who have in their pleas also sought basic amenities like proper food and medical facilities at all beggars’ homes in the city. Their pleas were first filed in the Supreme Court from where they were transferred to Delhi High Court.
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