Sacrilege may get you life term in Punjab

Desecration of holy scriptures of all faiths will now be punishable with life imprisonment in Punjab.

Earlier, the government had proposed amendments in the law to make sacrilege of only the Sikh holy book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, punishable with life imprisonment.

However, the Punjab cabinet on Tuesday approved amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to make sacrilege of all religious texts punishable with life imprisonment.

Sacrilege was earlier punishable with a jail term of up to 2 years. Over the last few years, Punjab has witnessed several incidents of desecration of the holy books that threatened to disrupt communal harmony in this border state.

The government approved the insertion of Section 295AA to the IPC, which said, "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 bill to this effect will be tabled during the ensuing session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha this week.

The earlier bill sent by the Punjab government was returned by the Union government for its "inadequacies". Later, the government had withdrawn the bill in May 2018 that proposed life sentence for the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) returned the bill last year in March saying the proposed amendments would violate the principle of secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

Punjab's incumbent Advocate General Atul Nanda too had agreed with the Centre’s assertions, which is what led to the state government incorporating all major religious books of faith.

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