Today the Punjab State Assembly unanimously passed a bill to include an amendment in the IPC and CrPC to make ‘sacrilege’ of any religious texts to be liable of punishment of life imprisonment. These changes were introduced a week after the state cabinet had gone through and approved of the amendments which were to be introduced.
Previously, there was an uproar over the case of Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report that indicted former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in the 2015 Guru Granth Sahib sacrilege case. The new bill talks about the insertion of Section 295AA to provide that “whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Geeta, Holy Quran, and Holy Bible with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.”
The bills were originally introduced in the Assembly in March 2016 but were withdrawn after the President had refused to grant assent. The reason for disapproval was when the centre had objected to making the offence for only the Guru Granth Sahib, punishable with a life term.
The changes have been entertained especially after the Ranjit Singh Commission was set up. The one-man commission, which was set up in April 2017, has named former Punjab Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal in a report for his “apparent involvement” in police action against anti-sacrilege protestors at Kotkapura, near Bathinda, about three years ago.
The Bill further states ”In the Indian Penal Code, 1860, in its application to the state of Punjab, in section 295, for the words ”two years”, the words ”ten years” shall be substituted.
When a few leaders walked out in opposition during the proceedings of the house, then Sukhbir Singh Badal had tweeted in response,
“I dare you, Amarinder Singh, to let us have equal time as you have siphoned off in the Assembly and then let there be a debate,” “You have run away from the debate by limiting us to only 14 minutes while you lay allegations against us for an hour and 20 minutes. Let us have equal time and see who runs away.”