The Punjab assembly Monday passed the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seeks life imprisonment for sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib — by adding section 295 AA in IPC — and enhancement of punishment under section 295 of IPC — injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class — from two to 10 years.
Leader of Opposition Charanjit Singh Channi sought the same proposed punishment for disrespect to other religions too. He was leaving the House with Congress members when the Bill was introduced. He returned, asking the House to accept an amendment proposed by another Congress MLA, Tarlochan Soondh, to extend the punishment for disrespect to other religions.
The amendment was rejected by a voice vote. While maintaining that the Congress supported the Bill, Channi said: “Our country is a secular country. We sit here (in the assembly) after swearing by secularism.” He said when an idol is installed in a temple, rituals are performed to make it a living one. He said other religions also revere their holy books like the Koran and Gita.
“This is my suggestion. Whether to accept it or not is up to the House,” Channi said. Referring to incidents of sacrilege in the state last year, Channi said the proposed amendment will be relevant only if the accused are caught and punished. He asked Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, who holds the Home portfolio, “why the accused have not been arrested and why he does not own responsibility and apologise”.
Pointing out that swift action was taken in the sacrilege case at Ram Diwali, Akali leader and minister Bikram Singh Majithia said those who violate the Guru Granth Sahib should get capital punishment. BJP leader and minister Madan Mohan Mittal said the issue was discussed in detail at the cabinet meeting where the Bill was cleared for introduction in the assembly.
The assembly also passed the Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016. “Amendment in the existing provisions in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is being carried out which necessitates the consequential amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973,” the statement of objects and reasons stated.