Life term for sacrilege: Long way to go before Punjab’s bill is law
The ‘Panthic’ Punjab government of Parkash Singh Badal took almost a month to send its populist bill — advocating life sentence to the desecrators of Guru Granth Sahib — to governor Kaptan Singh Solanki for assent after the Vidhan Sabha passed the proposed legislation on March 21.punjab Updated: May 14, 2016 17:11 IST
The ‘Panthic’ Punjab government of Parkash Singh Badal took almost a month to send its populist bill — advocating life sentence to the desecrators of Guru Granth Sahib — to governor Kaptan Singh Solanki for assent after the Vidhan Sabha passed the proposed legislation on March 21.
The governor has stamped it but this bill is still unlikely to become a law anytime soon. The Punjab home department will send it to the Union government for the President’s assent; but before it gets to him, it will be routed through the Union Ministries of Home Affairs and Law and then the Prime Minister’s Office — a long, time-consuming path.
To become a law, the bill requires Presidential assent, since it is in conflict with the central legislation (295-A) that prescribes three-year imprisonment for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the feelings of any class by insulting its religion and religious beliefs. Following a spate of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and statewide violent protests last year, the poll-bound, nine-year-old Badal government had introduced this bill in the Vidhan Sabha budget session to punish those who defiled the Sikh holy book.
Government sources say that deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the portfolio of home affairs and justice, cleared the bill file on April 20 (Vidhan Sabha passed the bill on March 21) and the CM forwarded it to the governor on April 24. Solanki gave his assent within three days.
On April 28, the home department received the file from Punjab Raj Bhawan. Since then, no concrete step has been taken to send the bill to the Centre for Presidential assent, sources have said. “It will be done shortly,” said a government functionary. The Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016, prescribed life imprisonment for sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib (by adding Section 295-AA) and enhancement of punishment (under Section 295 of the IPC) from two to 10 years for injuring or defiling a place of worship.
This bill was passed amid a demand from the opposition Congress for including the scriptures of other religions as well, which was, however, rejected by a voice vote. An amendment was also made to Section 295-A of the IPC to enhance the punishment for hurting religious sentiments. Proposing the amendments, Sukhbir had stated that the desecration incidents, if not curbed, could create a serious law-and-order problem in the state. “The existing provisions in the IPC are insufficient to deal with these situations,” he had said on the floor of the House.
Of at least 27 bills introduced in the Vidhan Sabha budget session, 25 were passed and two withdrawn.