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In Punjab, disrespect the Guru Granth Sahib and be ready to face life imprisonment

  • Religious sentiments and the intolerance regarding the issue has been the moot point in various debates around the country for the past few months

    The Punjab Assembly in a bid to safeguard the religion and its followers took a big step forward. The Assembly today passed a bill which states that whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to Guru Granth Sahib with an intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people will be punished with imprisonment for life.

    The Bill - Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment )- was moved by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

    This bill comes in the midst of many incidents regarding the insult and sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib – the holy book of the Sikhs, in Punjab and many other province of Western India. These attempts at insulting the religious sentiments of the Sinkhs have not been handled generously by the citizens of the state and has triggered widespread protests. In such a major protest in Faridkot a few weeks back also reportedly claimed 2 lives.

    The Bill 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.

    Opposition leader Charanjit Singh Channi and Congress MLAs Ashwini Sekhri and Tarlochan Singh moved the assembly for an amendment in the Bill. The proposition put forward by them was that one this Bill seeks punishment for those who disrespect the Guru Granth Sahib, it also should include punishments for disrespecting the religious texts of Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Christians and Buddhists alike. This amendment was however shot down in the Assembly by the power of voice.

    Hailing the bill, he however, said that "what is more important is to arrest those who indulge in such crimes and implementation of such an Act." Channi said Congress supports the bill, but keeping in mind the secular credentials of the country similar provision for punishments should also be made for those damaging Holy books of other religions. "Before making a law, government should first arrest the culprits behind such crimes," he said.

    Before this Bill was introduced in the Assembly, Section 295 of IPC dealt with offenses related to injuring or defiling places of worship with intent to insult religious feelings and carried a punishment of two years in jail. For all other religions, the Punjab Bill now proposes an increase in punishment from “two years to 10 years”.

     

    OUR TAKE

    While the action taken is by no means incorrect, the Bill should also have included the punishments for those disrespecting the religious sentiments of other religions too. India being intolerant or not being intolerant is not the question at hand and it may lead to endless hours of debate and discussions. The answer to the rising amount of tension present may not be as simple as this Bill, but a journey of a thousand miles does indeed start with a tiny step.

     


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