Punjab Passes Bills Making Desecration of Religious Texts Punishable with Life Term

Though the Punjab assembly had passed bills that sought life imprisonment for the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Centre had insisted that the law refer to all holy books.

Chandigarh: The Punjab assembly today unanimously passed bills proposing amendments to the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to make desecration of religious texts punishable with life imprisonment.

The assembly passed the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, and The Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, moved by the state PWD Minister Vijay Inder Singla.

Significantly, the Punjab assembly in 2016, when the previous SAD-BJP government was in power, had passed the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016 and Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The amendments at that time were approved to seek life imprisonment for desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib.

However, the Centre raised objection, saying the punishment of life imprisonment could not be limited to the desecration of holy book of just one religion and should instead be for all religions. Both the earlier bills now stand withdrawn.

Chief minister Amarinder Singh said the Centre had opined it was not possible to consider one religion separately and prescribe separate punishment.

Participating in the debate, AAP MLA Aman Arora demanded that an amendment be made in the bills mandating that the trial be completed within six months.

Senior Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia said his party supported the bills.

He, however, sought that desecration of Guru Granth Sahib be treated separately, “as it was accepted as a living guru”.

Earlier, the Punjab cabinet had approved the insertion of section 295AA to the IPC to provide that – whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Gita, Holy Quran and Holy Bible with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.

The state had witnessed incidents of sacrilege in recent years, which had become an election issue in the assembly polls last year.