File photo of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. 

Punjab Approves Draft Bill That Will Make Sacrilege Punishable With Life Imprisonment

The Punjab Cabinet today approved a draft bill proposing amendments to the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to make desecration of religious texts in the state punishable with life imprisonment.

The government has taken a major step towards curbing such incidents and maintaining communal harmony in the state, an official spokesperson said, adding that the decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

“The cabinet has approved insertion of section 295AA to the Indian Penal Code to provide that whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagavad 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 spokesperson said.

The state cabinet has approved the withdrawal of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed in the 12th Session of 14th Vidhan Sabha, 2016, he said.

It has given its nod to the introduction of The Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, in the ensuing session of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, the spokesperson said.

Significantly, the Punjab Assembly in 2016, when the previous Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party 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 brought to seek life imprisonment for desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib.

However, later, the centre reportedly objected to the amendment, asking the state that the punishment of life imprisonment couldn't be limited to desecration of the holy book of just one religion and instead it should be applicable for all religions.