Railways propose to Decriminalise Begging

The Ministry of Railways has proposed to decriminalise begging on trains or railway premises as part of an exercise to decriminalise or rationalise penalties under the provisions of the Railway Act, 1989. It also compounds the offence of smoking by levying spot fine and dropping all charges or action against the person involved.

Key provisions

  • Section 144(2) of the Railway Act says that if any person begs in any railway carriage or upon a railway station, he shall be liable for punishment as provided under sub-section (1).
  • Sub section (1) prescribes imprisonment for a term that may extend to one year, or with fine that may extend to ₹2,000, or with both.
  • The railways now propose to amend the Section stating that “No person shall be permitted to beg in any railway carriage or upon any part of the Railway”.
  • Section 167 of the Act says that no person in any compartment of a train shall, if objected to by any other passenger, smoke therein. Irrespective of any objections raised, the railway administration may prohibit smoking in any train or part of a train.
  • The railways now propose to amend Section 167, saying: “Provided that if the person liable to pay the fine under this section is willing to pay such fine immediately, the officer authorised may compound the offence by charging the maximum fine payable under the section concerned, and the sum so recovered shall be paid to the railway administration.

Some years ago, the Delhi High Court, while quashing provisions in the law that made begging in the national capital a punishable offence, had said: “Criminalising begging is a wrong approach to deal with the underlying causes of the problem. The State simply cannot fail to do its duty to provide a decent life to its citizens and add insult to injury by arresting, detaining and, if necessary, imprisoning persons who begs in search for essentials of bare survival”.








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