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The Delhi High Court bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar on Wednesday (August 8) directed that penal provisions associated with the act of begging in the National Capital Region were unconstitutional and deserved to be struck down. The order, thus, decriminalised begging in Delhi.

In the last hearing before this landmark judgment, the bench had asked how, in a country where the government was unable to provide food or jobs, begging could be treated as an offence. The government had a qualified approach to the issue, saying that begging should not be a crime only if it was done due to poverty. In general, though, the government said that begging will not be decriminalised.

The bench said that the consequence of this would be that prosecution under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act would be liable to be struck down.

About forced begging as a racket, the bench said that the government was at liberty to bring in alternative legislation after undertaking an empirical examination on the sociological and economic aspect of the matter.

–  India Legal Bureau

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