Blasphemy Law In Punjab : A Step Forward Or Two Steps Backward

Punjab Government Commends Sentence Of Life Imprisonment For Sacrilege Of Religious Texts

In a shocking announcement, the Punjab government  decided to include a new section (295 AA) in the Indian Panel Code (IPC), which states that, “Whoever roots hurt, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahi, Holy Quran, Srimad Bhagwad Gita and Holy Bible with the intent to indignant the religious feelings of the people; shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.”

One provision already exists under the IPC section 295A. It mentions that the imprisonment is up to three years in the case of ‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings’. According to this section, whoever damages or tries to destroy the holy books can entice binding life imprisonment in Punjab. Moreover, impertinent to a prophet or god would end up in jail up for to three years.

How It All Began

The history of criminalisation of the blasphemy moves stealthily in Indian laws and needs to be restated. As per the report published in The Hindu, Mahashay Rajpal, the publisher of a particular book, Rangila Rasul (the colourful Prophet), was pursued to be indicted under the then section 153A. It was alleged that this book caused social disharmony amongst several communities. Rajpal was granted the space to appeal to the Lahore High Court because during that time criticism and defacing the religion figures did not fall under the section 153A.

Image result for mahashay rajpal Rangila Rasul punjab
Mahashay Rajpal

It was said in the court that the book did not particularly cause any hostility or abhorrence between religious communities and it does not disrupt the section 153A. Consequently, the Muslim community of India necessitated and demanded a law against the affront to religious feelings. Eventually, the British government legislated a new section 295(A) in 1927.

The projected Penal code bill is going to replace the Punjab Amendment Bill of 2016 of Indian Panel Code, approved by the then coalition government of Bharatiya Janata Party-Shrimonai Akali Dal government, which particularly mentions about sacrilege only against the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The Criticism It Is Garnering

Many legal experts and intelligentsia have criticised the bill on the basis of the inaccurate way the term ‘sacrilege’ has been defined. The experts stated that it should be clearly explained as physical sacrilege or defilement otherwise any activity, which could even be writing a book or sketching a cartoon in print or social media, or even in speech, may lead to people getting convicted  for blasphemy and this is against the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights under article 19 and 25 of Indian constitution. Leaders of other parties claim that the move of this particular bill by the ruling party is a desperate attempt to collaborate and move towards the right-wing politics.