India: Anti-Begging Laws In India - "Idleness Is The Key Of Beggary" - C.H. Spurgeon

Last Updated: 3 July 2017
Article by Tanuka De and Mehul Singh

Most Read Contributor in India, December 2018

To begin with, let us first understand what constitutes the meaning of the word "Begging". The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act of 1959 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act") has defined the term "Begging" in Section 2(i) of the Act as"

  1. Soliciting or receiving alms, in a public place whether or not under any pretence such as singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale;
  2. entering on any private premises for the purpose of soliciting or receiving alms;
  3. exposing or exhibiting, with the object of obtaining or extorting alms, any sore, wound injury, deformity of diseases whether of a human being or animal;
  4. having no visible means of subsistence and wandering, about or remaining in any public place in such condition or manner, as makes it likely that the person doing so exist soliciting or receiving alms;
  5. allowing oneself to be used as an exhibit for the purpose of soliciting or receiving alms;

but does not include soliciting or receiving money or food or given for a purpose authorizes by any law, or authorized in the manner prescribed by [the Deputy Commissioner or such other officer as be specified in this behalf by the Chief Commissioner]"

There are a sum total of 22 states which have adopted the Prevention of Begging Act 1959 as a derivative in absence of any central act for the same cause. All offences under this act are to be tried summarily except those under Section 11 of the act which penalizes the act of employing or causing persons to beg or use them for the purposes of begging. The Act elaborates in the aforesaid section that if any person employs or causes any other person to solicit or receive alms, or whoever having the custody or charge of the child, connives or encourages, their employment or the causing the child to solicit or receive alms or uses another person as an exhibit, shall be punished for imprisonment for a term up to three years but which shall not be less than one year.

Receiving Centers and Certified Institutions are set up by the Chief Commissioner, which may include the provision for the teaching of agricultural, industrial and other pursuits, and for general education and medical care of the inmate. As per the regulation of the Act, an Advisory Committee will be constituted to visit such facilities, tender advice regarding management, collect subscriptions towards expenses and advice the such facilities through the Chief inspector (for carrying out the purpose of this Act, The Chief Commissioner may appoint a Chief Inspector, Additional Chief Inspector of Certified Institutions, an Inspector and such number of Assistant Inspectors and Probation Officer as he think advisable to assist the Chief Inspector, and every person so appointed to assist the Chief Inspector shall have such of the powers, and perform such of the duties, of the Chief Inspector as the 1[Chief Commissioner] directs but shall act under the direction of the Chief Inspector.) Every Receiving Centre shall be inspected by Chief Inspector, Inspector, Assistant Inspector or a Probation Officer, every six months. The Government has drafted a bill that seeks to decriminalize beggary and offer a life of dignity to the beggars, homeless and others who live in poverty or abandonment. Begging is currently a crime under the Bombay Prevention of Begging, 1959. Under this Act, a person found begging can be sent to a shelter home or even jail without even a trial. The draft 'The persons in destitution Bill 2015' looks at the issue as a social menace. Destitution refers to a state of poverty arising from economic or social deprivation and 'persons in destitution' include the homeless, beggars, and people with physical and mental disabilities, the old and infirm.

Section 24(1) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 provides that whoever employs or uses any juvenile or the child for the purpose of begging or causes any juvenile to beg, can be imprisoned up to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Those who abet begging are also liable for the same punishment. Section 363A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for punishment for a person who kidnaps or maims a minor for purposes of begging. Unauthorized vending/hawking and begging in trains and Railway premises is an offence under the provisions of Section 144 of the Railways Act, 1989.

Child beggars are treated as children in need of care and protection under the "Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS)" being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Further, there are many government schemes for destitute men and women so that they do not take to streets. (For instance, under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS) central assistance is also provided to States for giving pension to persons above 65 years, living below the poverty line, @ Rs. 200/- per month, which is meant to be supplemented by at least an equal contribution by the States.)

TACKLING ORGANIZED CHILD BEGGING

Enforce ban- To control this problem, the Government as well as the Corporation should enforce a ban on begging. Secondly, arrangements should be made to collect the beggars and place them in poor homes set up for them.

Partial ban- A total ban on begging as a first step would not be fruitful and not a clever decision.

Rehabilitate them-The Government should also take more effective measures to crush gangs which thrive on begging in an organized manner. More beggars' homes should be opened where training in various crafts and trade may be provided.

All-round protection-The following methods may be followed to curb child begging. Provide sex education for children in the workplace. Laws must be developed and existing laws relating to children such as drug trafficking laws be scrutinized.

INITIATIVE FOR REHABILITATION OF BEGGARS

PUNE: The union government is mulling over a new centrally-supported initiative for the rehabilitation of beggars as local self government bodies in India have failed to implement schemes for the same. Recently a few municipal corporations in Maharashtra including Pune Corporation had launched 'beggar free city' campaign. However the campaign was abruptly concluded and hardly any beggar was rehabilitated across the state. The Pune Corporation claims that it has rehabilitated 16 of 479 beggars that were identified in the city.

BILL TO MAKE BEGGING LEGAL

Under the draft bill, employing a child for begging and any form of organised or syndicate or forced beggary will be a crime punishable under the Juvenile Justice Act and the Indian Penal Code. Further, the person found begging will be sent to a rehabilitation centre, for which states have been asked to make budgetary allocations, the district welfare officer, department of social welfare or the department handling the issues of destitutes and beggary in states shall be responsible for the supervision, monitoring and coordination of the implementation of this act in the districts. The director of social welfare shall be responsible at the state level. The bill, however, is a model legislation that has to be adopted and notified by states.

The crime of begging is also non-bailable, i.e., the accused has to make an application in court to get out of jail while the inquiry goes on. The level of awareness regarding free legal representation is very low in India and activists have often found the quality of representation to be poor. A person accused of begging would typically have no means to hire legal representation, and would find getting bail very hard.

Though the model bill does not criminalise begging per se, it allows for people found begging repeatedly to be detained indefinitely in rehabilitation centres with police assistance, if necessary Further, the bill envisages the issuance of identity cards which can potentially be used for surveillance purposes. These provisions could also allow and assist the police to conduct raids and 'clean-up drives', making the situation not very different from now.

WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN?

State laws on begging differ fundamentally in their approach towards the treatment of children found begging. Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, children found begging are treated as victims in need of care and protection to be dealt with by child welfare committees whilst some of the state laws treat them as criminals who can be sent to an institution.

THE SHIFT FROM A PUNITIVE TO REHABILITATIVE APPROACH

By treating beggars simultaneously as criminals and as those in need of help, different State Governments have failed in their duty to reintegrate them into society, with the result that they usually end up begging again. Doing so incriminates them again, and the punishment for repeat offences is higher extending to detention for an indefinite period of time. India's policy-makers must develop a consistent and humane approach towards begging, which focuses not on penalizing but on rehabilitating them. The model bill marks a shift towards a more rehabilitative approach, but continues to perceive ostensible poverty as indicative of begging, and allows indefinite detention and the involvement of police in certain circumstances.

ONCE A PERSON HAS BEEN DETAINED:

  1. Court ordering the detention shall forthwith forward him to the nearest Receiving Centre with a copy of the order of detention.
  2. Will be handed over into the custody of the Superintendent of the Receiving Centre and shall be detained in the Receiving Centre until he is sent there from to a Certified Institution.
  3. When any such person has also been sentenced to imprisonment, the Court passing the sentence of imprisonment shall forthwith forward a warrant to a jail in which he is to be confined and shall forward him to such jail with the warrant together with a copy of the order of detention. After the sentence of imprisonment is fully executed, the officer executing it shall, if detention in a Certified Institution for any period remains to be undergone by such person, forward him forthwith together with the copy of the order of detention to the nearest Receiving Centre, and thereupon the provisions of sub-section (1) shall as far as may be applied.

In case of leprosy patients and lunatics:

  1. Where it appears that any beggar detained is of unsound mind or a leper, the beggar might be shifted to a mental hospital or leper asylum or another place of safe custody, to be kept and treated.
  2. Where it appears that the beggar has ceased to be of unsound mind, or is cured of leprosy, the Chief Commissioner shall, by an order direct to the person having charge of the beggar if still liable to be kept in custody to send him to the Certified Institution from which he was removed or if the beggar is no longer liable to be kept in custody order him to be discharged.
  3. The provisions of section 31 of the Indian Lunacy Act, 1912, (IV of 1912) or (subject to the provisions of sub-section (2) of section 14 of the Lepers Act, 1898 (III of 1898) shall apply to every beggar confined in a mental hospital or leper asylum

Such beggars who have been detained, shall be let go at the end of three months from the commencement of the release on licence of any person under Section 22 of the said Act, if the Chief Inspector is satisfied that there is a probability that such person will abstain from begging, recommend to the Chief Commissioner his unconditional release. The Chief Commissioner may on such recommendation release such person unconditionally.

PENALTY FOR BEGGING

The court shall order the person found to be a beggar under the last preceding sub-section to be detained in a Certified Institution for a period of not less than one year, but not more than three years. Provided that, if the court is satisfied from the circumstances of the case that the person found to be a beggar as aforesaid is not likely to beg again, it may after due admonition release the beggar on a bond for the beggar's abstaining from begging and being of good behavior, being executed with or without sureties as the court may require by the beggar or any other person whom the court considers suitable. The Court shall have regard to the following considerations, that is to say:- (i) the age and character of the beggar, (ii) the circumstances and conditions in which the beggar was living, (iii) reports made by the Probation Officer.

PENALTY AFTER BEING DETAINED FOR BEGGING

The sole purpose of this act and all its derivative acts is to rehabilitate beggars from their current illegal profession so that they be trained and employed in proper legal professions instead of resorting to begging.

While many would suggest that this act is archaic, one cannot negate the fact that Beggary is one of the biggest and most crucial social issues of India. The reasons for beggary range right from Poverty to Infirmity. Many would agree that it is also used as a method to scam good Samaritans by adhering to rules of deception to get easy money.

It is important to know that Begging has grown across the country by many folds, but as a citizen of this society believe that the correct rehabilitation, reformation and restoration of this evil we can overcome this problem of Beggary.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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