Draconian Laws Not Needed, Use Existing Ones EfficientlyThe Congress government in Punjab has approved an amendment that seeks to insert section 295AA in the Indian Penal Code to prescribe life imprisonment for causing injury, damage or sacrilege to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Geeta, Holy Quran and Holy Bible with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people. The previous Akali government had also tried a similar law but it was related to offences committed against the Guru Granth Sahib and was rejected by the Centre then as being religion-specific. Hence, the new government has included the religious texts of all religions to get it through.
By Sunil Garodia
Considering the existing law on this matter, the proposed amendment is not required at all and will set a highly dangerous trend. A reading of the existing section 295 will show why there is no need to insert 295AA. Sec. 295 reads Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defile¬ment as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
The above definition prescribes punishment for destroying, damaging or defiling both place of worship or any object held sacred. The law will consider religious texts as proposed in Sec 295AA to be objects held sacred. Then what is the need to insert a new section? If the legislators thought that the punishment prescribed was too low, they could have enhanced it to seven years or even longer. The Punjab government is agitated over the issue as there were many incidents in the state where torn and damaged pages of the Guru Granth Sahib were thrown at many places. But the existing law is enough to punish the culprits. The problem is in catching them and producing them before the law. Keeping in mind the fact that certainty and not the severity of punishment acts as deterrent to crime, the government should work on apprehending the culprits instead of prescribing draconian punishment.