Begging is not a crime in India. However, the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, of 1959, and similar laws in other states allow local authorities to detain and rehabilitate individuals who are found begging in public places. These laws are intended to help individuals who are unable to support themselves and are in need of assistance, rather than to punish them. The rehabilitation process often includes providing the individual with food, shelter, medical care, and vocational training to help them become self-sufficient.
22 states and union territories in India have anti-begging laws, and the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 serves as the model for most of these laws. The laws have been the subject of criticism by some who believe that they unfairly target marginalized and impoverished individuals and that they fail to address the underlying social and economic issues that contribute to begging.
Laws governing begging in India
There is no uniform law such as anti-begging laws. The state laws are also researched around the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 as it is the sole derivative for beggary laws. Below is a brief of other laws that can make an impact on begging in India.
Delhi 2018 BPBA reform:
In August 2018, the Delhi High Court struck down certain sections of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 (BPBA) that criminalized begging in the city of Delhi. The court ruled that these sections of the BPBA violated the Indian Constitution's guarantee of equality under Article 14, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, and other grounds. As a result of this ruling, begging has mostly been decriminalized in Delhi.'
It is worth noting that while begging is not a crime in India, the BPBA and similar laws in other states allow local authorities to detain and rehabilitate individuals who are found begging in public places.
Indian Penal Code:
Section 363A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 makes it a crime to kidnap or maim a minor for the purpose of begging. It also defines what constitutes begging and who qualifies as a minor. The section also makes it illegal to hire or use a child for the purpose of begging if the person is not the rightful guardian of the minor.
In addition, Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with public nuisance, states that a person is guilty of a public nuisance if he or she causes injury, danger, or irritation to the public. It may be applied to situations in which begging is considered a public nuisance.
It is worth noting that the purpose of these laws is to protect children from exploitation and abuse, rather than to punish individuals for begging. The goal is to prevent children from being forced into begging by unscrupulous individuals and to provide them with the necessary assistance and support to live safe and healthy lives.
Juvenile Justice Act, 2015
Under Section 76 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, it is a crime to employ or use a child for the purpose of begging, or to induce a child to beg. The penalty for this offense is imprisonment for a term of up to five years, as well as a fine of up to one lakh rupees. If a person amputates or maims a child for the purpose of begging, he or she will be punished with imprisonment for not less than seven years, which may extend up to ten years, and a five lakh rupees fine.
The Children Act, 1960
Section 42 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 states that whoever employs a child for begging or indulges the child into begging or makes him beg will be liable to imprisonment for a term of up to one year or a fine or both. The abetment of such an offense is also punishable, and the offense is of a cognizable nature.
Prevention of beggary act 1960
In January 2018, the Delhi High Court struck down the Delhi Prevention of Begging Rules, 1960, which were formulated under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, as unconstitutional. The court held that the act violated the right to equality and the right to life and personal liberty as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The court also noted that the definition of begging under the act was arbitrary and that the act did not address the root causes of begging, such as poverty, lack of access to education, social protection, and discrimination based on caste and ethnicity. The court ruled that the state must provide the necessities for survival to all its citizens and that criminalizing begging does not address the root causes of the problem. The court also struck down provisions of the act that permitted the arrest and detention of beggars without a warrant but upheld provisions that dealt with penalties for employing or causing people to beg, which address the issue of forced begging or begging rackets.
State-wise Anti-begging laws in India
|1||Assam||The Assam Prevention of Begging Act, 1964|
|2||Andhra Pradesh||The Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Beggary Act, 1977|
|3||Bihar||The Bihar Prevention of Begging Act, 1951|
|4||Chattisgarh||Adopted the Madhya Pradesh Bikshavirty Nivaran Adhiniyam, 1973|
|5||Delhi||Adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959|
|6||Daman and Diu||The Goa, Daman & Diu Prevention of Begging Act, 1972|
|7||Goa||The Goa, Daman & Diu Prevention of Begging Act, 1972|
|8||Gujrat||Adopted the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959|
|9||Himachal Pradesh||The Himachal Pradesh Prevention of Begging Act, 1979|
|10||Haryana||The Haryana Prevention of Begging Act, 1971|
|11||Jharkhand||Adopted the Bihar Prevention of Begging Act, 1951|
|12||Jammu and Kashmir||The J&K Prevention of Begging Act, 1960|
|13||Kerala||The Madras Prevention of Begging Act, 1945, the Travancore Prevention of Begging Act, 1120 and the Cochin Vagrancy Act, 1120 are in force in different areas of the State|
|14||Karnataka||The Karnataka Prevention of Begging Act, 1975|
|15||Madhya Pradesh||The Madhya Pradesh Bolshevist Navarin Adhamiya, 1973|
|16||Maharashtra||The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959|
|17||Punjab||The Punjab Prevention of Begging Act, 1971|
|18||Sikkim||The Sikkim Prohibition of Beggary Act, 2004|
|19||Tamil Nadu||The Madras Prevention of Begging Act, 1945|
|20||Uttar Pradesh||Adopted the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Begging Act, 1972|
|21||Uttarakhand||Adopted the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Begging Act, 1972|
|22||West Bengal||The West Bengal Vagrancy Act, 1943|
Power of police to arrest beggars
Under the provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, and the corresponding laws in other states, an authorized police officer has the power to arrest without a warrant any person who is found begging in a public place. If a person is found begging on private property, they can only be arrested on a formal complaint by the owner of the property. After arresting a beggar, the police officer has to take the person to court. If the court finds that the accused was not involved in begging activities, they will be released. If the court determines that the accused was involved in begging, the court may give an appropriate punishment, which could include detention in a certified institution as prescribed by the state government.
Punishments for begging
Under the last preceding sub-section, a court may detain a beggar for a period of not less than one year, but not more than three years in a Certified Institution. The court may release the beggar on a bond for abstaining from begging and being of good behavior after due admonition if the court is satisfied, based on the circumstances of the case, that the person found to be a beggar as aforesaid is unlikely to beg again. The beggar or any other person the court deems suitable may execute the bond with or without sureties as the court requires. The Court will take into account the following considerations: (i) the age and character of the beggar, (ii) the circumstances and conditions in which the beggar lived, and (iii) the Probation Officer's report.
Provision for medical checkups of beggers suffering from leprosy or is lunatics
If it appears that a beggar who has been detained is of unsound mind or a leper, they may be shifted to a mental hospital or leper asylum, or another place of safe custody, for treatment and care. After the period of punishment has expired, if a medical officer certifies that further medical care or treatment is necessary for the safety of the beggar or others, the recommendation of the medical officer will be followed. The purpose of these provisions is to ensure that beggars suffering from mental illness or leprosy receive appropriate care.
1. Is the nature of the anti-begging law curative?
The nature of the anti-begging laws in India, such as the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, is generally considered to be punitive rather than curative. These laws are designed to punish and deter begging by providing for the arrest, detention, and rehabilitation of beggars.
2. Will the provisions of the anti-begging law decrease the begging?
It is difficult to determine the extent to which the provisions of the anti-begging laws in India have been successful in decreasing begging. While these laws may have had some impact on reducing the number of beggars in public places, they have also been criticized for not adequately addressing the root causes of begging, such as poverty, lack of access to education and social services, and discrimination based on caste and ethnicity.