New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday made clear it will not take an “elitist view” that no beggars be allowed on the streets and asked the Centre and Delhi government to respond to a plea seeking vaccination and rehabilitation of beggars and vagabonds in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The apex court, which observed that a large number of people including children are compelled to be on the streets to beg due to absence of education and employment, said this is a “socio-economic issue”.
A Bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah told the counsel appearing for the petitioner that it would not consider one part of the prayer which sought a direction to the authorities to restrain beggars and vagabonds from begging on traffic junctions, markets and public places to avoid spread of Covid-19 pandemic in all the states and Union Territories (UTs) across India.
The Bench said it would issue notices to the Centre and Delhi government seeking their responses on the plea for direction to the authorities for rehabilitation of beggars and to ensure that food, shelter and basic medical amenities including Covid-19 vaccination are provided to them amid the pandemic.
“As the Supreme Court, we would not want to take an elitist view that no beggars should be there on the streets,” the Bench said during the hearing.
While referring to a part of the prayer made in the plea, the Bench said it is seeking to restrain people from begging on the streets.
“This is a socio-economic problem of poverty. The idea is to rehabilitate them, give them and their children education,” it said, adding that such people have no choice and nobody wants to beg.
The Bench said it is a “wider issue” of social welfare policy of the government and the apex court cannot say that such persons should be kept away from our eyes.
“This is a socio-economic issue and cannot be remedied by a direction of the nature that is sought in prayer (a). This is a human problem which has to be redressed by the welfare State in a manner which accords with Part III and IV of the Constitution,” the Bench said in its order.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner said the object and purport of the prayer is to seek a direction to the authorities for rehabilitation of those who are compelled to be on the streets to eke out their livelihood by pursuing avocations such as begging.
The counsel, while referring to the pandemic, said there is an urgent need to ensure that vaccination programme includes them like all other citizens.
“Since the first part of prayer (a) is not pressed before this court, we are inclined to issue notice,” the Bench said, adding that petitioner shall amend the prayer accordingly.
The Bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist it in the matter and posted it for hearing on August 10.
“Since the immediate issue which needs to be attended is that of vaccinating the persons to whom the petition relates and to ensure the due provision of medical facilities in the Covid-19 pandemic, we would expect a response from the Union of India and the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi on what steps are being taken to deal with this human concern,” it said.
At the outset, the petitioner’s counsel told the Bench that issue raised in the plea is regarding rehabilitation of beggars as the impending third wave of Covid-19 pandemic poses a serious threat.
The Bench noted that it has indicated to the petitioner’s counsel that it is not inclined to countenance a prayer seeking directions to restrain beggars and vagabonds from the streets.