The Railways Ministry has proposed to decriminalise begging on trains or in stations in order to rationalise punishments under the Railway Act, 1989. The ministry has also moved for making smoking a compoundable offence, by levying a spot fine and dropping charges against the offender.
According to a report in The Hindu, the Railways have proposed to amend Section 144 (2) of the Act, which makes begging liable for punishment with imprisonment or a fine of Rs 2,000. The section may be changed to state simply that begging will not be allowed in railway carriages or on the Railway’s property, without the provision of a penalty.
For smoking, Section 167 of the Act has been sought to be amended. It states that no person may smoke in train compartments, if objected by another passenger. The railway administration may also prohibit smoking in trains, and the offender may be punished with a fine of up to Rs 100.
The proposal is to amend this section in favour of dropping charges against the offender in the event that he or she is willing to pay the maximum fine payable under the section concerned. The amount thus recovered shall be paid to the railway administration.
ThePrint quoted a railway official as saying that the Act was not used and it was better to remove the punitive provisions since it was an “inhuman law", which criminalises those who have been forced to beg.
Reportedly, the proposals are a part of the Centre’s move to amend redundant or outdated laws to reduce the burden on the judiciary. The Railway Board has also invited suggestions on the proposed amendments.
In June, the Railways had planned to do away with imprisonment provisions for minor offences like travelling without tickets and riding on footboards, the Hindustan Times had reported. As part of the amendments, offenders would be punished only with penalties.