The Delhi High Court on Wednesday decriminalised begging in the national Capital, saying provisions of a law that penalise the practice are unconstitutional and deserve to be struck down, PTI reported. The court was hearing two public interest litigation pleas on the matter.

The court said the consequence of this would be that provisions allowing prosecution of people under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, will be liable to be struck down. However, parts of the law that do not directly or indirectly criminalise begging or relate to it need not be struck down, it added.

The court said the Delhi government can bring in an alternative legislation to curb forced begging or any other racket after an empirical examination of sociological and economic aspects of the matter.

The Centre had argued against the decriminalisation of the practice. It reasoned that while begging because of poverty should not be a crime, there were enough checks and balances to prevent abuses of the law.

The petitioners, Harsh Mandar and Karnika Sawhney, had challenged the law, which is the only piece of legislation at present used to prosecute beggars. The petitioners also sought basic amenities such as proper food and medical facilities at every shelter home for beggars in Delhi.

During a hearing on May 16, the court had asked how begging can be a crime in a country where the government was not able to ensure everyone got food and jobs.