The subject of beggary has always been a sympathetic as well as a subjective affair in the eyes of many people. However, the Indian law sees it the other way around – it can be witnessed by the anti-beggary laws of the country. It is pretty much palpable that no one would ever want to be in a state of making out a living through begging but, instead of admonishing and questioning the government that why one has to beg for a living, courts have criminalised begging categorically.
The anti-beggary laws including the Bombay prevention of Begging Act (1959), the Karnataka prohibition of Beggary Act (1975) and twenty other Anti-Beggary laws explicitly violate populace’s right to live as also explained in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. These acts characterise “beggar” as anyone who “solicits or receives alms in a public place whether or not under any pretense such as singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing tricks or selling articles.” As by seeing the above attributes, it is very much comprehensible that it prohibits not only one’s right to live but also the way through which one lives for earning a living. And it indeed violates Article 23 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of which explicitly recognize the right to work, which also includes the right to freely choose the kind of work an individual pursues.
Police being the protector of the people performs vice versa – treats the beggars or the street-play performers less than a customary human being. The moment they see them on the roads begging or performing plays for their one-time food, police’s wrath blasts on them.
Even in this catastrophic pandemic, beggars were being beaten by the police officials for roaming here and there but here is the irony – they did not have a house to live then where else the police expected them to be.
A need is there on the part of the Legislature to amend the anti-beggary laws as to free the beggars to adopt any kind of way to earn their living as well as being effortless in doing so. The judiciary on the other hand can play an effectual role in saving the helpless people from getting their rights transgressed. Beggary is indeed a need but on top of that is one’s right.
Not a soul fancies begging but some do have to beg to not fancy their own death. – Ritik Gupta
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Beggary Laws in India: A Constitutional Analysis