The Ministry of Railways has proposed to decriminalise begging on trains or railway premises and compound the offence of smoking by levying spot fine and dropping all charges/action against the person involved. The Railway Board has called for comments/suggestions on the proposed amendments to the Act.
A couple of years ago, the Delhi High Court, while quashing provisions in the law that made begging in the national capital a punishable offence, said: “Criminalising begging is a wrong approach to deal with the underlying causes of the problem…The State simply cannot fail to do its duty to provide a decent life to its citizens and add insult to injury by arresting, detaining and, if necessary, imprisoning persons who beg in search for essentials of bare survival”.
Section 144(2) of the Act says that if any person begs in any railway carriage or upon a railway station, he shall be liable for punishment as provided under sub-section (1), which prescribes imprisonment for a term that may extend to one year, or with fine that may extend to ₹2,000, or with both. Now the proposal is to amend the Section by stating that “No person shall be permitted to beg in any railway carriage or upon any part of the Railway”.
Section 167 of the Act says that no person in any compartment of a train shall, if objected to by any other passenger, smoke therein. Irrespective of any objections raised, the railway administration may prohibit smoking in any train or part of a train. Whosoever contravenes these provisions shall be punishable with fine that may extend to ₹ 100.
The railways now propose to amend this Section, saying:
“Provided that if the person liable to pay the fine under this section is willing to pay such fine immediately, the officer authorised may compound the offence by charging the maximum fine payable under the section concerned, and the sum so recovered shall be paid to the railway administration. Provided further that the offender against whom the offence is compounded shall be discharged and no further proceeding shall be taken against him/her in respect of such offence”. Comments/suggestions can be sent to email@example.com or by post to Ravinder Singh, Deputy Director/TG-V, Room No. 445, Rail Bhavan, New Delhi, said the railways