Hearing a petition raising concerns over risk of spread of Covid-19 from beggars, the Bombay High Court on Friday observed that while other members of the civil society do not follow lockdown and safety norms, why was the petitioner blaming only children and women who beg on the streets.
The court directed the state government to file a reply in compliance with a 2019 order —issued by a different bench — seeking an affidavit on the action taken to rescue minor children and women who are found begging on the streets.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed last year by Pune resident Dhyaneshwar Darwatkar.
The PIL had sought directions to the state and local authorities to take action again against syndicates that make children and women beg on the streets and at traffic signals and also implement the provisions of Maharashtra Prevention of Begging Act, 1960.
On Friday, through advocate Shekhar Jagtap, Darwatkar sought an urgent hearing on the matter for the welfare of beggars amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Darwatkar submitted that begging activities have commenced with easing of lockdown restrictions on the movement of people, and a large number of children involved in it are putting their lives at risk.
Seeking urgent relief for children and women indulging in begging, he said that “they’ve become live bombs” and should be rehabilitated.
To this, Chief Justice Datta asked, “Why blame only the beggars? Even other members of the civil society do not follow social distancing and other norms.”
While asking the petitioner to be “sensitive” while making arguments, the HC said the entire nation is facing a difficult time and it was not right to target only beggars.
Granting a last opportunity to the state and other authorities to file replies by August 7, and rejoinder by the petitioner thereafter, the court posted the matter for further hearing on August 14.
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