NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways has proposed to decriminalise begging in stations and trains and smoking inside coaches.
The provision of jail and fine for begging would be done away as the focus will now shift to prevention through higher penalties imposed on those found smoking in trains, sources said.
A top railway official said this has been proposed following a communication from cabinet secretariat to decriminalise certain offences. The railways may add a couple of more offences to the list for which spot fines would be increased, the official said. This exercise is being undertaken across ministries and many departments have proposed increasing fines rather than arrest of offenders.
“This doesn’t mean that railways will allow or encourage begging at stations and in trains. Decriminalisation doesn’t mean it will be legalised. Surveillance by RPF and other staff will be increased to prevent such activities,” said a ministry official. Smoking in public places, including railway stations, is already banned in several states.
Section 144(2) of the Railways Act says if any person begs in any train or at station, he is liable for punishment of up to one year jail or with fine of up to Rs 2,000 or with both. According to the proposed amendment to this section, none shall be permitted to beg in trains or at stations.
Section 167 of the Railways Act also specifies that anyone found smoking in a compartment despite prohibition or objection from a co-passenger is liable for a fine of up to Rs 100. The authorities can slap charges for further action.
Now the proposal is to increase the fine, though the amount has not yet been finalised, sources said. As per the proposed provision, if the offender pays such fine immediately, the officer authorised can compound the offence by charging the maximum fine. The violator would be discharged and no further proceeding would be taken against him/ her.
The ministry has sought feedback from people.