The Karnataka High Court said on Wednesday (March 10, 2021) that it will issue interim directions in order to implement the Operational Guidelines for the Scheme of Shelter for Urban Homeless (SUH) under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) on March 23.
The bench emphasised the duty of a welfare state to provide shelter to all its citizens. The matter was being heard by the Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty. The bench orally observed:
"Next week we will pass order in terms of directives to implementation of operational guidelines issued by the central government, create additional centres and night shelters as directed by the Supreme Court.
In the order, the Court noted:
"To enable the AGA to take instructions and address the court we grant time till March 23. On that day the court will consider issuing interim directions in terms of the operational guidelines issued by the Government of India as well as the directions issued by Apex court from time to time."
The state was also guided by the Court to take instructions on the social audit of centres.
This petition has been filed by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Karnataka which wants the implementation of an order of the State Government dated May 29, 2014.
While going through the Statement of Objections filed by the State Government, the Court noted:
“Operational guidelines say that for every one lakh urban population, provisions should be made for permanent community shelters for a minimum of one lakh urban population, provisions should be made for permanent community shelters for a minimum of one hundred persons. While, for the entire state there are 67 centres and many of them are non-functional. Even if you take 50 persons as capacity of each centre, still it is not sufficient, it completely defeats the mission of the Central Government.
It has been noted the urban homeless population in the state of Kerala was 40,328 as per the 2001 census as illustrated by the Operational Guidelines of the State Government. About 29 NGOs had carried out a rapid survey in March 2010, of the Urban Homeless in the Bengaluru City which found that there were at least 17, 141 urban homeless living there alone.
It was submitted by Advocate Mohammed Afeef appearing for the Petitioners, "There are around 40 functional centres in the state of Karnataka and the capacity of accommodation of each of the centres, is around 50 to 60 people.” He also added that since the State Government guidelines make a reference to the Scheme of Shelter for Urban Homeless (SUH) under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM), they must work together.
He also went on to submit that there were no special centres as mandated in the scheme for children, transgenders or disabled persons. It said that the social audit was supposed to be done once a year.
The petition challenges Rules 37, 38, 46, 47 and 48 Rules for the Prohibition of Beggary, 1975, that criminalize begging as being violative of Article 14, 19, 21, 20(2) of the Constitution of India.
The petition inter alia seeks Relief Centres and Receiving Centres be retained as voluntary and people friendly institutions which were formed by the terms of Section 7 and Section 8. Along with this, it also seeks after the Beggary Homes lose its carceral character, its living conditions must be improved. This is along various other reliefs which it seeks for the upliftment of the downtrodden in accordance with the directions which were issued by the Supreme Court in PUCL v. Union of India (Writ Petition No 196/2001) for homeless shelters.
Further, a plea has been made in the petition that directions should be issued to the Respondents to grant pensions, community kitchens, shelters and provide health care along with livelihood support to the destitute in Karnataka.
It sought a further relief to conduct an audit on the expenditure of the Beggary Cess which is collected under Sec 31, Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1975. Lastly, it sought to direct the respondent(s) to implement the Operational Guidelines for Urban Homeless Shelters issued by Government Order No: UDD 81 MNG 2010 (P), Bangalore dated May 29, 2014 in its letter and spirit.
The petition also seeks to declare Section 2(1), 2(2), 3, 10, 11,12,13, 14 15,16,18,19,21,22, 23, 40 (f) and 40 (g) of Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary Act, 1975 ultra vires to article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
The Court of law said that it would first want to deal with issue of shelter and then think of the reliefs which are sought in the petition.