CHANDIGARH, Punjab—The Advocate General of Punjab Mr. Atul Nanda has requested the Punjab government to either drop the proposed amendment to section 295 of the Indian Penal Code of inserting a new section (295-AA), meting out life sentences for culprits committing sacrileges of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji or make it more inclusive to cover scriptures of all religions. Currently, the section 295-A specifies a jail term of upto 3 years for anyone found guilty of hurting or insulting religious sentiments.
The Advocate General was asked to file his legal opinion after the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill-2016 was returned by the union government of India in March this year. The union government had said that it would be a violation of the secular ethos of the Indian Constitution to increase jail terms for committers of religious sacrilege belonging to a particular religion.
Following a series of sacrilege incidents across Punjab in October 2015, the Shiromani Akali Dal led Punjab government was forced to pass an Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill 2016, to help stem accusations of inaction. Legal experts at that time had also clarified that the bill will not be approved as law as it was only concerned with the sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
It may be recalled here that a bill seeking an amendment to section 295 of the IPC was passed by the Badal led Punjab government in 2016. It was passed in the Punjab assembly in March 2016 and was approved by the Punjab government in April after which, it was sent for the Centre’s approval.
The President’s approval is necessary for a bill to be implemented as law. The union government refused to forward the ammendment to President Pranab Mukherjee citing the Bill was found violating secular ethos enshrined in the Indian Constitution.