The Punjab Cabinet’s announcement to introduce a new amended Section (295 AA) in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to provide life imprisonment to those involved in sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib has sparked a new controversy. Hurting religious sentiments, currently covered under IPC’s Section 295 A, makes sacrilege punishable by three-year imprisonment. This step would act as a deterrent to prevent the recurrence of such unfortunate incidents (sacrilege) in future, said Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal. “This amendment is all the more necessitated as the existing provisions of the said Act in Section 295, 295A and 296, though deal with these matters, but do not provide deterrent punishment for such unfortunate incidents.” The move follows over a dozen cases of Guru Granth Sahib desecrations in the past couple of months which triggered violent protests. Two protesters were killed when police fired on them in Faridkot last month. The BJP welcomed the move, but added the government should seek a similar punishment for disrespect to Hindu idols in temples where Prana Pratishta (idol consecration) is followed even as one of the party’s minister attended the Cabinet meeting. The Akali Dal must understand that Hindu gods are equally important to devotees and the faithful in Punjab. The same law must include disrespect to temples as well. The Cabinet’s decision coincided with Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee and handing over a letter to the President seeking a Supreme Court Judge’s probe into the killing of two protesters on 14th October. He accused Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir of “stifling dissent and intimidating adversaries” in the letter. Today, the public’s confidence in the Punjab Government and the Punjab Police has hit an all-time low. Many people believe that instead of providing protection to the public, the Punjab Police is beholden to the Chief Minister and used for stifling dissent and intimidating adversaries.
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