ON One day the Punjab police posted a photo of the young who was beaten to death for allegedly committing an act of sacrilege at the Golden Temple in an attempt to identify him, Chief Deputy Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, asking him to Obtain presidential assent for two bills passed by the state’s Vidhan Sabha in 2018 lifespan in the event of sacrilege.
In the letter, Randhawa wrote that “the sacrilege of the holy books is becoming a major problem in the Punjab” and that “the existing provisions of Articles 295 and 295-A of the Indian Penal Code-1860, which provide for a penalty of up to three years are insufficient to cope with this situation ”.
“Thus, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha adopted the Indian Penal Code Bill 2018 (Punjab Amendment) and the Criminal Procedure Code Bill 2018 (Punjab Amendment), which provide for penalties of up to up to life imprisonment for anyone who causes injury, damage or sacrilege. to Shri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwat Gita, the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible with the intention of hurting the religious feelings of the people, ”wrote Randhawa, who also holds Home’s portfolio.
“… As Punjab is a border state, it is extremely necessary to maintain community harmony here. For this, a dissuasive punishment is essential for those who try to disturb community harmony by committing sacrileges. I therefore request once again that the presidential assent for the said bills can be obtained and transmitted to the state government as soon as possible, ”the letter said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Randhawa said that “the state has written to the Center countless times about the pending assent.”
“Bills still rest with the Interior Ministry and continue to oscillate between the ministry and the state. They keep raising objections one after the other. It took over three years. The Home Office responded to all the questions they raised. We have argued that Guru Granth Sahib is considered a living guru of the Sikhs. So why can’t sacrilege be treated like murder? ” He asked.
“Under Articles 295 and 295A of the IPC, an accused can be released on bail within 15 days. Those who commit sacrilege are not afraid of the law when it is not strict. These lynchings only happened because people believed that the culprits would not be severely punished. They took justice into their own hands, ”Randhawa said.
On Sunday, a day after Amritsar’s murder, an unidentified migrant worker from Bihar was beaten to death in Kapurthala for an alleged attempted sacrilege in a gurdwara although police said there was no evidence that ‘sacrilege has been committed.
On Monday, a police spokesperson referred to the young man killed in Amritsar and said: “We have published his photo and are awaiting a response from the public. At the moment, we have nothing to identify it. He didn’t have a phone or ID. The police were also unable to verify the personal details of the migrant worker killed in Kapurthala.
In the state assembly, the ball was launched for tougher sanctions in cases of sacrilege on March 21, 2016, when the then SAD-BJP government passed the 2016 Code Bill. Indian Criminal Code (Punjab Amendment) and Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The amendments recommended life sentences for the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib.
Article 295A of the IPC deals with “willful and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class by insulting their religion or religious beliefs” and provides for a prison term of up to three years. The amendment sought to insert Article 295AA which provides for life imprisonment for the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib.
The amendments also sought to strengthen the penalty under Article 295 of the IPC, for injuring or defiling a place of worship with the intention of insulting the religion of any class, from two to ten years’ imprisonment. .
But on March 16, 2017, the day Amarinder Singh’s congressional government was sworn in, the Center returned bills saying that all religions should be treated equally in accordance with the secular nature of the Constitution and that ‘he couldn’t choose a religion to offer life. imprisonment.
In August 2018, the Punjab Assembly withdrew the 2016 bills and unanimously passed new bills proposing life imprisonment for desecrating the religious scriptures of four religions. The new bills retained the previous amendment from 2016 regarding places of worship where the sentence under Article 295 of the IPC has been increased to ten years.
During the discussion on the 2018 bills, Amarinder Singh read the Centre’s observations that “the Indian government also took (the) advice of Mr. Mukul Rohtagi, then Attorney General of India.” According to Amarinder, Rohtagi observed that “a ten-year sentence is proposed under section 295. The same is excessive. In my opinion, the President of India cannot give his assent ”.