New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a petition challenging the provision in law allowing arrest and imprisonment of beggars.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice C K Thakker allowed the petitioner to withdraw the PIL with the liberty to approach before the appropriate forum.
The petition filed by one Parshadi, who was arrrested on the charge of begging, had challenged the Constitutional validity of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 and other similar acts which makes poverty per se a crime and authorises the incarceration of poor, disabled and sick persons for long periods of time.
Before declaring the PIL dismissed as withdrawn, the Bench posed question to senior advocate Collin Gonsalves as to how the Act which prohibits begging was unconstitutional.
The advocate submitted that how can a beggar be arrested.
Challenging the incarceration of beggars and their families, who can eke out an existence only by begging, as unconstitutional, the PIL contended that it runs contrary to Article 21 in as much as the fundamental Right to life is transgressed in the case of poor and ill persons.
The petition also cited the instance of a commission appointed by the Bombay High Court as a result of a Petition filed in 1990 which remarked that the Act does not distinguish between the beggars who beg out of sheer helplessness created by phyisical handicap, disease, old age and poverty and the professional beggars.
The commission felt that real improvement cannot take place under the existing Act and new legislation in keeping with the needs of present society is absolutely necessary, the petition submitted.