Comments by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Bangalore), Alternative Law Forum
(Bangalore), Sadhana Mahila Sangha (Bangalore)

The Persons in Destitution (Protection, Care and Rehabilitation) Model Bill, 2016, seeks to
replace the existing legislations governing beggary in India. The Bombay Prohibition of Beggary
Act, which has been adopted by different states in India, criminalises beggary. This Act sets up
relief centres to which beggars shall be remanded on the directions of a Magistrate. This Act,
along with different State legislations mirroring it, criminalises beggary, targets vulnerable and
visibly impoverished persons and prescribes the detention of destitute persons. In practice, this
amounts to the criminalisation of poverty itself, trapping destitute persons in a cycle of continued
destitution and detention, and undermines the very purpose of a legislative attempt to address
poverty. Moreover, detention centres often do not adhere to basic standards of humane and
hygienic conditions. In Bengaluru, Karnataka, there have been multiple reports of appalling
conditions of living in beggary homes. In August 2010, there were reports of multiple deaths in
the Beggars’ colony on Magadi Road. Moreover, in 2014, many transwomen were picked up
from their own homes in Bangalore and taken to the Beggars Colony. Street-based sex workers
in Bangalore have regularly been picked up by the police and locked up in the Beggar’s colony.
Detention in the Beggar’s Colony has often been used as a means of driving street-based sex
workers from the streets. It is clear that existing Beggary Acts are not aimed at addressing
poverty per se, but only at dealing with ostensible poverty in its most visible forms. This clearly
betrays the fact that the State views poverty as a problem of aesthetics and visibility, and not one
borne out of structural injustice.
Existing laws on beggary have successfully delinked beggary from poverty, seeing the former
more as deviant behaviour and not as the last resort of a desperately impoverished person. This
approach of the law was criticised by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Ram Lakhan vs State1,
wherein it was held that the detention of persons begging because of poverty is dehumanising to

137 (2007) DLT 173

them, and is a disgrace and a failure of the State. The Delhi High Court recognised that necessity
drives persons to beg, and criminalising such necessity is violative in itself.
Moreover, while the constitutionality of the Beggary Act itself was not under challenge in the
above case, it was observed that a blanket restriction on the seeking of alms can be considered
violative of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, and even the
fundamental right to life. This was qualified by the Hon’ble Court as merely an observation, and
not a decision on the constitutionality of the law itself, however it remains as a pertinent
observation on the perversity of a legal landscape that allows a person to say in public “help the
homeless”, but not, “help me, I am homeless”.
The existing beggary laws not only delink beggary from poverty, but also create false
distinctions between ostensible, i.e., visible poverty, and invisible poverty, and further act to
invisibilise the former. Clearly, there is no other rationale behind identifying visible
manifestations of poverty such as the seeking of alms through various means, displaying bodily
deformities or simply roaming the streets without any visible means of sustenance. It is clear that
the existing legislations are aimed at “cleaning” visible poverty, without actually addressing the
reasons behind poverty, which can be varied, complex and extremely problematic.
Any rehabilitation scheme for the poor must address structural reasons behind poverty. These
may include the lack of access to education, caste-based discrimination, landlessness, disability,
abandonment, among many other factors. Moreover, the inter-generational nature of poverty
must be recognised and addressed.
Most importantly, however, a rehabilitation scheme must involve the participation and
knowledge of the poor themselves. Persons in destitution are not a homogenous whole, but
comprise of individuals who have navigated poverty and destitution in ways unique to their own
context. Therefore, the dignity and integrity of their lives must be respected while thinking of
ways in which persons in destitution can be assisted.
The Persons in Destitution Model Bill therefore has to be assessed keeping the above
considerations in mind, to ensure that the need to address poverty as an issue is not shadowed by
a manufactured sense of aesthetics in the urban landscape.

1.1. The Draft Bill uses the term "persons in destitution", and defines it as "homeless
persons, persons in begging, persons with mental and physical disabilities, the old, the infirm,
and other such persons who are above 18 years of age and in a state of poverty or
abandonment arising from economic or social deprivation and sustained unemployment" The
draft bill further defines the term "destitution" as a state of poverty or abandonment, arising
from economic and social deprivation, including age and infirmity, homelessness, disability,
sustained unemployment, etc., which requires support for the person to move out of.
This definition of “persons in destitution”, while more expansive than the definition of
“beggar” in the various Beggary Prohibition Acts adopted by different states in India,
continues to include the term “persons in begging”. Moreover, the definition of the term
“begging” in the Model Bill is identical to the definition used in existing Acts. Chiefly, it
includes the term “having no visible means of subsistence and wandering about or remaining
in any public place in such manner as makes it likely that the person does so exist by
soliciting or receiving alms”. This is poorly veiled phrasing to indicate that persons who look
impoverished in a public space are considered beggars. Other than the fact that this is a crude
aesthetic standard of determination which has no place in a law ostensibly aimed at
addressing the structural reasons behind poverty, the definition also allows for misuse, as has
been evident in the past when migrant workers have been picked up because of the way they
Moreover, the term “persons in destitution” does not provide any clear indication of what
constitutes destitution. It is unclear how destitution as a standard of poverty relates to the
poverty line standard. Especially since the Draft Bill proposes the creation of identity cards
and the linking of specific services to the card, it is important to clarify how this category of
persons relates to existing poverty standards.
In addition, the definition is silent on what constitutes "sustained unemployment" This is
indicative of a lack of understanding of labour that may be seasonal or migratory in nature, or
in short, labour that is not regularised. The word "and" used in Section 2(2) to separate the
terms "economic or social deprivation" from "sustained unemployment" further adds to the
ambiguity of the definition as it indicates that the conditions precedent to identifying persons
in destitution requires the presence of both deprivation and unemployment.

Recommendation: Section 2(1) should be amended to exclude any reference to begging,
and Section 2(3) should be deleted in its entirety. Section 2(2) should be amended to
clarify the factors that lead to destitution. A definition of "sustained unemployment"
must be included.
1.2. Section 2(4) defines the term “Persons with Disability”. However, the rationale behind
fixing 40% as a lower limit of disability in this Bill is unclear, especially since lower levels
of disability, compounded with poverty and marginalisation, can also drive a person to
Recommendation: Section 2(4) should be amended to refer to the definition in the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.

Section 6 of the Bill states that identity cards shall be provided for persons identified as
destitute. It is unclear as to why such an identity card is required, especially because the
criteria for determining destitution is unclear. The Bill seems to suggest destitution as a
separate standard for poverty, apart from the accepted standard of the poverty line. This will
lead to proliferation of multiple conflicting standards of poverty as well as a multiplicity of
identification requirements. Further, it is unclear how this identity card will aid persons in
destitution in procuring benefits under welfare schemes when the BPL card exists for this
very purpose.
Moreover, the registration of identity cards for persons in destitution suggests surveillance of
urban destitute persons. It is unclear what purpose a roster of persons in destitution is aimed
to serve, especially because the definition of persons in destitution under this Model Bill is
broader than mere poverty, and therefore an identity card cannot indicate the exact nature and
reason for the individual’s destitution. Therefore, given the chequered history of anti-beggary
legislations in India, it can be surmised that identity cards will only be used to make “clean-
up” drives easier for the State.
Recommendation: Section 6 of the Draft Bill should be deleted.

The Bill envisages the setting up of four institutions for the rehabilitation of persons in
3.1. Outreach and Mobilization Units
Section 5 states the functions of Outreach and Mobilization Units. Section 5(a) states that
these units shall conduct surveys of destitute persons, with special emphasis on railway
stations, bus depots, platforms and inside trains. It is unclear why particular emphasis is laid
on these areas, to the exclusion of other areas. Moreover, the areas mentioned are transit
areas with a high concentration of migrants. The Karnataka Beggary Act has often been
misused against migrant workers, especially against workers from different states. This
spatial emphasis, coupled with the Model Bill's broad definition that includes within its scope
visibly destitute persons, operates against the interests of the working class as a whole and is
a prejudiced understanding of poverty and labour.
Recommendation: This section should be amended to remove the emphasis on specific
areas such as railway stations, bus depots, platforms and inside trains.
3.2. Rehabilitation Centres
Section 7 provides for the creation of Rehabilitation Centres. This section does not indicate
whether rehabilitation is conditional on institutionalistation, i.e., whether individuals seeking
rehabilitation can freely enter and exit rehabilitation centres. The Bill does not state whether
the consent of individuals is mandatory before they are taken into rehabilitation centres. This
paves the way for arbitrary and illegal detention of individuals against their will.
Moreover, Section 7(7) states that Rehabilitation Centres shall be set up near areas where
such communities reside. It is unclear, however, what communities are being spoken of. This
may be interpreted to result in a targeting of slums or temporary shelters, or even
communities of migrant workers. Disturbingly, communities of hijra women have also been
targeted in the past and taken to the Beggar’s colony in Bangalore. By referring to
“communities” that beg, the Bill lends itself open to State sponsored targeting of vulnerable
Moreover, the section is unclear on what constitutes rehabilitation. The mere provision of
vocational training is not sufficient to help a person escape destitution. Especially in light of
the very definition of destitution in the Model Bill, which defines it as arising from economic

or social deprivation and sustained unemployment, any rehabilitation which does not address
the structural economic and social inequities from which deprivation emerges will be
insufficient to sustain rehabilitation.
In this context, there are other legislations which have led the way in terms of comprehensive
rehabilitation programmes. For example, The Prohibition of Employment as Manual
Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 mandates a comprehensive system of
rehabilitation that is sensitive to the structural social inequities that contribute to manual
scavenging. The Act details the following scheme for rehabilitation:
a. Initial, one-time cash assistance
b. Provision of scholarship to children of manual scavengers
c. Allotment of residential plot and financial assistance for house construction, or a ready-
built house, with financial assistance
d. Training in livelihood skill, subject to the willingness of the individual to participate in
such training. This training may be given to a family member as well, and the individual is
entitled to a monthly stipend of Rs. 3,000 for the period of the training.
e. Subsidy or concessional loan for taking up an alternative occupation on a sustainable basis
f. Any other legal or programmatic assistance, as may be notified
The above scheme for rehabilitation recognizes the fact that a multiplicity of factors,
including landlessness, lack of education, lack of employment opportunities, and penury
contribute to the marginalization of persons.
Moreover, it is also important to note the directions laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court
of India in MC Mehta v State of Tamil Nadu2. The Supreme Court has directed state
governments to either (a) provide employment for an adult member of every family with a
child who is employed in a factory or mine or other hazardous work or, if not possible to
provide an adult family member with a job, (b) contribute Rs. 5,000 to the Child Labour
Rehabilitation-cum-Welfare Fund for each child employed in a factory or mine or other
hazardous employment. Adults who are offered jobs in this way would also have a duty to
ensure that their children entered full-time education and did not continue to work.
Lastly, the very definition of the term “rehabilitation centre” in Section 2(7) of the Draft
Model Bill includes the term “voluntary organization”. However, there is no process

AIR 1997 SC 699

recommended under which private bodies may be authorized to run private shelters for
persons in destitution. There is no process of certification, or review under which standards
of living in private shelters may be reviewed from time to time. Moreover, the outsourcing of
state functions of poverty alleviation to private bodies is in itself problematic, as it is a step
towards stripping the State of its accountability towards welfare.
Recommendations: (1) The Draft Bill should include a comprehensive scheme of
rehabilitation, incorporating the scheme outlined in the Manual Scavenging Act, as well
as the ercommendations in MC Mehta vs State of Tamil Nadu.
(2) Section 7 must also include a sub-section which provides that the informed consent
of individuals is mandatory before they are taken into rehabilitation centres, and no
individual may be detained in the rehabilitation centre without their continued
informed consent. Rehabilitation centres must function in the manner of open shelters,
allowing the free ingress and egress of individuals.
Rehabilitation plans must also be formulated with the informed consent and
participation of the individual sought to be rehabilitated. No individual shall be forcibly
subjected to rehabilitation without his or her consent.
(3) Section 2(7) must be amended to remove reference to private bodies as
implementing agencies.

4.1. While this Draft Bill ostensibly is aimed at the decriminalization of beggary, having a
chapter titled thus is unnecessary and goes against the intended spirit of the Bill. Moreover,
reference to sections of the IPC and the Juvenile Justice Act are unnecessary and confusing,
as these are standalone provisions in separate Acts which do not require reiteration in this
4.2. Section 11(3) states that if a person is found begging repeatedly despite undergoing
rehabilitation and counselling, then police assistance may be sought in detaining the person
in the rehabilitation centre for as long as felt necessary. This section grants the police wide
ranging arbitrary powers to detain individuals simply on the basis of a subjective assessment
of whether or not they have been rehabilitated. Moreover, the primary criticism behind the
various State Beggary legislations is that they criminalise poverty, hence making it difficult

for persons to seek rehabilitation. By allowing for the arbitrary detention of individuals, this
provision allows for the illegal detention of persons in destitution, and is hence, clearly and
unequivocally unconstitutional. This is a thinly veiled attempt to retain the power to
arbitrarily detain persons in destitution with the police.
Recommendation: Chapter III of the Draft Bill should be deleted in its entirety.

5.1. The Bill does not have any provisions for conducting an enquiry against individuals
employed with any of the units mentioned in the Act for any harassment or abuse of persons
in destitution. It also does not include any provisions for enquiry into the manner in which
individuals are brought into the rehabilitation centres. The implementation of existing laws
on Beggary makes it evident that the arbitrary detention of persons is quite common, and
there is rampant abuse in the relief centres themselves. Even the Draft Trafficking of Persons
(Protection, Prevention and Rehabilitation) Act of 2016 in Chapter IX provides for grounds
of action to be taken against the management or persons-in-charge of shelter homes.
However, there is no such clause in this Draft Bill, and there is also no recognition of the
methods of redressal available to victims of illegal detention and abuse and harassment.
5.2. Section 15 of the Draft Bill contains a good faith clause which prevents action from
being taken against individuals for doing anything in good faith in pursuance of the
provisions of this Bill, or any rules or orders made under the same. By foreclosing the
possibility of legal action for harassment, or arbitrary detentions under this Act, this
provision, and the absence of an structure of enquiry from the bill allows for rampant abuse
of powers under the Bill.
5.3. Section 27 of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Vending)
Act, 2014 prohibits the harassment of street vendors by the police. The Draft Bill should
contain a similar provision prohibiting the targeting, harassment or abuse of persons in
destitution by the police, or by any other person in authority in an outreach and mobilization
centre, rehabilitation centre, counseling centre, or referral centre.

Recommendations: (1) The Draft Bill should contain a provision similar to Section 27 of
the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Vending) Act, 2014,

protecting persons in destitution from harassment, targeting or abuse by the police, or
by any other person in authority in an outreach and mobilization centre, rehabilitation
centre, counseling centre, or referral centre.

(2) The Draft Bill should also include a provision for independent enquiry into the
actions of the administration of the various bodies constituted under the act, as well as
the actions of the police.

(3) Section 15 of the Draft Bill should be deleted.


In conclusion, it is pertinent to return to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Model
Bill. This Bill claims to provide for the "protection, care, support, training and other services
to all persons in destitution", however envisions the same by consistently depriving such
persons of any agency in determining the terms of their own access to protection and care,
their needs for support and the facilitation of the poor to support themselves.

Though the letter of the Bill decriminalises begging, its spirit continues to perpetuate a model
that views poverty as a crime in and of itself. Unless it is completely overhauled, this Bill
will only aggravate the systemic social and economic deprivation of marginalised
communities, much like its predecessors.


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