Recently Cabinet of Punjab govt approved a draft bill which will make sacrilege punishable with life imprisonment. It is analogous to ‘blasphemy’ which empowered the Church to penalise Galileo for speaking ‘Earth revolves around the Sun‘, claimed to be in violation of Bible. Such actions led rise of anti-religion, anti-establishment, anti-governance mentality e.g. foundation of communism: an ideology which has destroyed more human on earth than any other natural calamity. Without spicing up, let me explain it with legal perspective as I am studying law. Chapter 15 titled ‘Of Offences relating to religion’ of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Act 45th of 1860 is the topic of discussion today. Section 295 of IPC 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 defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or with both.”
Notable citations are Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ was banned in India under this IPC section and in recent time Penguine India withdrew its book written by Wendy Doniger. This case was settled outside court and details I shared long ago in my previous blog.
How it happened?
India is quasi federal governance, this means federal states with unitary judiciary e.g. states have authority to have their own govt but structure of judiciary will be same in ascending order: magistrate court, district court, high court, and supreme court. State will have freedom to have own laws. Punjab govt took this decision in the wake of rise of anti-Sikh sentiments. This draft bill will append new section named 295AA in Chapter 15 of IPC. Constitution empowers state govt to do so. Schedule 7th of Constitution of India has three lists namely Union List, State List, and Concurrent List, distributing legislative powers to the Union and the States. Item 1 of Concurrent List reads
“Criminal law, including all matters included in the Indian Penal Code at the commencement of this constitution but excluding offences against law with respect to any of the matters specified in list I and List II and excluding the use of naval, military or air forces or any other armed forces of the Union in aid of the civil power.”
The language is clearly and authorises state govt to amend IPC. Punjab govt has used this provision and planning to modify IPC.