Representative image | Photo: Mathrubhumi
New Delhi: Making clear it will not take an "elitist view" that no beggars be allowed on the streets, the Supreme Court Tuesday 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 said begging is a “socio-political problem” and people are compelled to beg on the streets to eke out some elementary livelihood in the absence of education and employment.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah told the counsel appearing for the petitioner that it would not consider one part of the prayer which sought direction to the authorities to restrain beggars, vagabonds and homeless persons from begging at public places or traffic junctions.
The bench said it would issue notices to the Centre and the Delhi government seeking their responses on the prayer made in the petition for rehabilitation, vaccination and providing food and shelters to beggars and vagabonds 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.
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.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner said the object and purport of the prayer is to rehabilitate them and ensure that they are provided vaccination, food and shelter amid the pandemic situation.
The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist it in the matter and posted it for hearing after two weeks.
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 in its order that it has indicated to the petitioner that it is not inclined to countenance a prayer seeking directions to restrain beggars and vagabonds from the streets.
“The reason why people are generally required to take to the streets to beg is to eke out some elementary livelihood in the absence of education and employment. This is a socio-economic problem and can't be remedied as sought in prayer A,” the bench observed.
It noted that petitioner's counsel has said that he is not pressing the prayer seeking directions to restrain beggars and vagabonds from the streets.
“In view of the clarification issued, we are inclined to issue notice,” the bench said, while granting liberty to the petitioner to amend the prayer.
It said since the immediate issue which needs to be attended is that of vaccinating these persons, it would expect the Centre and Delhi government to apprise it about the steps which are being taken to deal with this human situation.