The Chief Minister of Punjab, Amarinder Singh on August 21, 2018 announced that the state cabinet has approved amendments to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to make sacrilege of all religious text punishable with life imprisonment.
The Cabinet approved the Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, and the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018. The amended bills will be tabled in the upcoming Assembly session.
The main objective behind making sacrilege of all religious texts punishable with life imprisonment is to preserve communal harmony.
• The Punjab cabinet has 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 Geeta, Holy Quran and Holy Bible with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.
• With the cabinet’s decision, the Justice (retired) Ranjit Singh Commission Report on the sacrilege cases in Punjab will be tabled in the next session of the Vidhan Sabha and legal action will be taken against all who would be found guilty by it.
• The state cabinet agreed to withdraw the Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016 which was passed by the previous state government in 2016.
• The amendment bills were passed at that time to seek life imprisonment for sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib.
• The centre had reportedly objected to the amendment and asked the state to not limit the punishment of life imprisonment to the desecration of the holy book of just one religion.
Besides the draft law on sacrilege, the cabinet gave its approval to several significant bills including the one that would allow for reservation of Schedule Caste (SC) employees in promotions and constitution of Punjab State Higher Education Council.
In June 2016, more than 250 people were booked in Malerkotla after pages of the Quran were reportedly found in the town.
A year prior to that, at least four incidents of the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib were reported from different parts of the state.