The Punjab government's proposed decision to amend Section 295 AA, a law which makes acts of sacrilege against the holy books — Guru Granth Sahib, Gita, Quran, Bible — of major religions punishable with life imprisonment, is expected to cause quite an uproar as the bill will be tabled in Punjab assembly on Tuesday.
The attempt by Punjab government to expand the scope of India's desecration law has not been welcomed by majority.
Meanwhile, chief minister Amarinder Singh tweeted from his personal handle and "promised" to not spare anyone who is "guilty of the crimes of sacrilege of our holy religious texts and those behind these conspiracies." Amarinder said he speak about the issue in detail during the debate of the ATR on Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report in the Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday afternoon.
The chief minsiter also handed over cheque of Rs 1 crore each to the families of the two fatal victims of Behbal Kalan firing. Amarinder gave Rs 90 lakh to the families of the injured.
As promised will spare no one who’s guilty of the crimes of sacrilege of our holy religious texts and those behind these conspiracies. Will speak in detail on this issue during the debate of the ATR on Justice Ranjit Singh Commission report tomorrow afternoon in the Vidhan Sabha. pic.twitter.com/Don4WGqNYR
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) August 27, 2018
The issue catapulted to prominence after chief minister Amarinder Singh accepted the recommendations of the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission. The panel was set up by the Congress government in April 2017 to investigate the various incidents of sacrilege of religious texts. It also dealt with incidents at village Burj Jawahar Singh Wala, Bargari and firing incidents at Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan in 2015.
After receiving the report, Amarinder Singh directed the state home department to take necessary action in the cases.
In an embarrassment to the ruling party, the first part of the 182-page report was leaked online, virtually allowing the SAD to frame its strategy to counter the Congress.
Later, a key witness, Himmat Singh, a former granthi at the Golden Temple and brother of former Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Gurmukh Singh, retracted from his statement given to the commission against the then ruling Badal family.
He reportedly alleged that he was pressurised by cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa to sign the statement. However, Randhawa denied the charge.
It took 15 months for the Commission to hand over the first part of a four-part probe report. The chief minister, The Indian Express reported, said that the commission "recommended appropriate action against the then SDM Kotkapura and those police officers who, though not apparently guilty of any criminal act, were nevertheless seen to be responsible for police action."
In 2017, the Centre returned the bill in April 2017 which was passed by the Shiromani Akali Dal government in 2016. The Punjab Assembly sought addition of a section in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to increase punishment in cases related to sacrilege and desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib from three years to life imprisonment.
The Centre rejected the request and said that "since all religions are to be treated equally, the addition of a section for one particular religion was not possible" in the IPC. In May this year, the Congress government, which took power in early 2017, withdrew the bill. However, the demand for the bill is back now and by covering holy books of all other religions it ensures that they don't fall foul of the constitutional principle of the equality of all religions.
The premise behind amending the existing law is that sacrilege disrupts public order, which the state has a duty to maintain. Reports also said that Section 295 AA was merely a "duplication" of an existing law on desecration which gives the state sweeping powers to make arrests.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Aug 28, 2018 08:29 AM