The Punjab government is considering introducing a Bill in the Budget Session of the Assembly to make sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib an offence punishable with life imprisonment. A draft of the Bill, accessed by The Indian Express, proposes that Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) should be amended in its application to Punjab and include life imprisonment for causing “injury, damage or sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib with the intent to hurt religious feelings”.
At present, Section 295 of IPC deals with offences related to injuring or defiling places of worship with intent to insult religious feelings and carries a punishment of two years in jail. For all other religions, the Punjab draft Bill proposes an increase in punishment from “two years to 10 years”.
The Budget Session begins Tuesday. “The amendment is primarily aimed at making a stringent provision in law to ensure exemplary punishment to all those who flare up communal tension,” says a note by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. It underlines the “urgent need to curb these kinds of incidents to maintain feeling of harmony and brotherhood”.
The state government had promised to deal strictly with those who defiled the Guru Granth Sahib after a series of sacrilegous incidents last year created a crisis for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). A government official said modalities are being worked out and the Bill could be presented in the Budget session, which winds up on March 22.
The Punjab Home Department also proposes to amend the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, in its application to Punjab to effectively deal with incidents of sacrilege. The draft Bill was recently sent by the Home Department to the state’s legal remembrancer department for vetting after the Cabinet’s approval for insertion of Section 295-AA in Section 295, in its application in Punjab.