ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ostensible Poverty, Beggary and the Law

Beggary laws persist in Indian jurisprudence despite evidence of abuse and presumption of criminality among the "ostensibly poor". A quartet of encounters with the law, in Mumbai and in Delhi, provides a context to exploring the relationship between poverty and criminality, and the extensive loss of rights that emerge as a consequence. Beggary laws have begun to demonstrate how the law may be made, continued, expanded and practised when the constituency affected by the laws are powerless - so rendered by the illegality that the law visits on them, the prejudice that poverty provokes, the distance between privilege and poverty, and the vanishing obligations of the state. The Bombay (Prevention of Begging) Act 1959, in particular, has led to the callous treatment of those who are "ostensibly poor" and in the denial of rights to them, thereby rendering itself unconstitutional. It is therefore necessary to repeal the law.

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