Delhi HC Grants Temporary Relief To Over 40 Leprosy Patients Rendered Homeless After Decriminalisation Of Beggary [Read Order]

Delhi HC Grants Temporary Relief To Over 40 Leprosy Patients Rendered Homeless After Decriminalisation Of Beggary [Read Order]

The Delhi High Court on Thursday granted temporary relief to over 40 leprosy patients who were rendered homeless after beggary was decriminalised by the High Court in August last year.

The judgment had struck down several provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act as unconstitutional and had clarified that the inevitable consequence of the decision would be that the prosecutions under the Act against persons alleged to have committed the offence of begging would be liable to be struck down.
It was under the Delhi Prevention of Begging Rules, 1960 that the Delhi government had set up eleven certified institutions, including a reception cum classification centre under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, with a sanctioned strength of 2180. Consequent to the judgment, inmates from the Home for Leprosy and T.B. affected patients (HLTB), Tahirpur, Shahdara, Delhi were set free. This used to be a jail for leprosy beggars.
The court has now been approached by one such homeless leprosy patient, Rajeev Kumar, alleging that more than 450 leprosy-affected patients have either been living on the streets since their release from HLTB or are on the verge of being on the road.
The petition in fact asserts that the problem of survival of a leprosy patient did not end with the decriminalization but actually began with it. It explains how the shelter homes were a blessing in disguise for the leprosy patients,
"Earlier HLTB was the only place where the leprosy patients could be treated, provided food and shelter. As a consequence of decriminalizing of begging the inmates can no longer stay at HLTB which was their only resort and only form of rehabilitation even though it was a prison."
The petitioner brings to the court's attention the fact that HLTB not only provided them with shelter but also treatment for leprosy. He submits that he had started seeing improvements in his health, but has seen relapse in his medical condition after he was left for the streets.
Advocate Manisha Bhandari, counsel appearing for the petitioner, had therefore sought interim direction to convert the shelter homes under the struck down Beggary Act as rehabilitation centres for lepers who are left in the lurch. She had relied on the
directives issued by the Supreme Court
in September last year, asserting that the State government was obligated to rehabilitate leprosy infected patients.
During the hearing on Thursday, Justice Vibhu Bakhru was informed by Advocate Gautam Narayan, appearing for the Government of Delhi that currently there is no scheme for rehabilitating such leprosy-affected people.
Granting temporary relief, the court then ordered, "Clearly, in the meantime, the petitioner and other persons cannot be left homeless at the mercy of the elements. In this view, the respondents are directed to accommodate the petitioner and similarly placed persons who have been removed from the home, back in the said premises. The respondents would be at liberty to house them separately from other inmates, if considered necessary."
The matter will next be heard on July 23, 2019. In the meantime, the State authorities were directed to file their respective counter-affidavits within a period of six weeks. Rejoinders, if any, are expected to be filed within two weeks thereafter.
Read the Order Here