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Can’t take elitist view on begging, they have no choice: SC

The plea sought vaccination and rehabilitation of homeless, beggars, and vagabonds amid the Covid-19 pandemic across India.

IANS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it cannot take an elitist view on begging and referred to it as a socio-economic problem. The top court emphasized that beggars are forced to take to the streets to eke out a living in the absence of education and employment.

A bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah said, “People take to streets to beg to eke out an elementary livelihood in the absence of education and employment”. The bench stressed that begging is a socio-economic problem, which cannot be resolved through the direction of the court.

The bench issued notice to the Centre and the Delhi government on a petition filed by advocate Kush Kalra seeking vaccination and rehabilitation of homeless, beggars, and vagabonds amid the Covid-19 pandemic across India.

Senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, representing Kalra, sought direction to the Centre and state governments to “rehabilitate” the beggars with the help of social departments and district magistrates to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

On the aspect of restraining people from begging on streets, the bench observed, “Why do people beg on the street? It is due to poverty.” The bench pointed out that nobody wants to beg and added, “We will not take an elitist view. They have no choice.”

Sharma urged the top court to issue a direction to the states and Centre, to ensure food, shelter, and basic medical amenities including Covid vaccination to beggars across the country.

“The most significant way to protect life is to secure the health of each citizen of India and the state is under an obligation to … rehabilitate the beggars who are moving freely on traffic junctions, markets, and public places so that they do not spread the virus”, said the plea.

The plea argued that beggars at traffic junctions, markets, and public places could contribute to the spread of Covid, therefore it is essential to rehabilitate them. The bench noted that this is a wider issue of social welfare policy.

The bench said: “Immediate issue is to ensure vaccination of the persons. We direct the Union of India and GNCT Delhi to file a response on how to deal with this human situation. Solicitor-General can assist the court”.

The bench pointed out that beggars, vagabonds and the homeless were entitled to medical facilities amid the pandemic. After hearing the arguments, the bench posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.