SC Refuses to Restrain Beggars and Vagabonds From Begging; Says It Can’t Take an Elitist View

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The Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that begging is a socio-economic problem and that it was a function of poverty. The Court refused to ban begging, however, agreed to issue notice for rehabilitating beggars.

Background of the Case

A Public Interest Litigation was filed by a lawyer, Kush Kalra seeking to restrain beggars, vagabonds and homeless people from asking for money at traffic junctions, markets and other public places to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infection. The petition also sought the Supreme Court to issue directions to the Union and State Governments to rehabilitate beggars.

Arguments before the Court

The first prayer enumerated in the petition was filed by the petitioner through Advocate Mohit Paul and it sought the “restraining of beggars, vagabonds and homeless people from asking for money at traffic junctions, markets and public places in all states and Union territories across India to avoid the spread of Covid-19”.

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Additionally, the Senior Advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma stated that the actual premise of the petition sought for the rehabilitation of beggars and to ensure that they are vaccinated. The petition stated that the Union and the State Governments had the duty to ensure the Right to Health of every citizen of the country and that they had to be rehabilitated. The petitioner stated that the Centre and State Government have to be directed to prepare a road map for the purpose of rehabilitating beggars and that the help of social welfare departments and district magistrates of concerned States must be taken for the same.

Additionally, it was submitted that “till date there is no legislation or policy in India that provides for rehabilitation of vagabonds either at the Centre level or at state level despite the fact that the number of beggars in all states and UT’s is more than 4 lakhs.”

Observations of the Supreme Court

The Court refused to entertain the prayer pertaining to the restraining beggars from asking for money and stated that “As the Supreme court, we will not take an elitist view.”

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According to the Court, begging was a function of poverty and that they (beggars) did not have a choice. The Court highlighted that the issue was a socio-economic problem and that it could not be remedied by restraining them from begging for money.

According to the Court, “the latter part is to rehabilitate them so as to ensure basic amenities are available to them”; hence the Court agreed to issue a notice pertaining to the latter part of the petition.

Decision of Supreme Court

The Court granted liberty the petitioner to amend their petitioner and to confine it to the rehabilitation of beggars and homeless persons. Further, the Court issued a notice to the Centre and Delhi Government to ensure that beggars, vagabonds, etc., are vaccinated. The Court directed the Centre and Delhi Government to file its response as to how the instant situation can be dealt with. Accordingly, the matter was listed to be heard after two weeks.

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