In the backdrop of incidents of the desecration of a scripture, the Punjab Cabinet today gave its nod to make the law more stringent, providing for life imprisonment as maximum punishment for those convicted for acts of sacrilege.
"The Cabinet gave its green signal to introduce a new amended Section 295 AA in the Indian Penal Code 1860, which would provide punishment of life imprisonment for offenders committing heinous acts of sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
"This step would act as a deterrent to prevent the recurrence of such unfortunate incidents in future. This amendment was all the more necessitated as the existing provisions of the said Act in Section 295, 295A and 296 though dealt with these matters but do not provide deterrent punishment for incidents related to sacrilege," an official release giving details of the Cabinet decision, said here this evening.
The maximum punishment in such cases earlier involved three years of imprisonment.
The Cabinet meeting was held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Welcoming the move, SAD's alliance partner the BJP, said that they too had been demanding strict punishment for those found involved in acts of sacrilege involving the holy book.
"However, at the same time, we also want a similar law in place to deal with offenders who were found guilty of desecration involving the 'Prana pratistha' murtis (images/idols of gods)," BJP's senior leader Tarun Chugh said.
'Pran Pratishta' refers to the ceremony by which a murti (image of a god) is consecrated in a temple.
Notably, Punjab has recently been rocked by a series of incidents of sacrilege involving the holy book.
The ruling SAD-BJP has been under attack from the opposition parties for failing to stop the acts of sacrilege as well as the degrading law and order situation in the state.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet also offered government jobs to son of Krishan Bhagwan Singh and the brother of Gurjit Singh.
Both Krishan Bhagwan Singh and Gurjit Singh were killed during a protest against the incidents of desecration of holy book on October 14 at Faridkot.
With an eye on the state Assembly elections slated for
early 2017, the Cabinet also announced sops for various sections today, including a major recruitment drive in the state, doubling of old age, handicapped and widow pensions, health insurance scheme for farmers, government jobs for next of kin of victims of Faridkot police firing victims, slashing VAT on dry fruits and LED lights, exempting the Gaushalas (cowsheds) from VAT, among other decisions.
In a bid to provide employment opportunities to the youth of the state, the Cabinet gave its nod for launching a major recruitment drive to fill 1,13,766 vacant posts in various departments.
The Cabinet directed the state government to complete the process of recruitment on these posts in a fast track mode, i.E. Within a year.
Around 30,000 posts will be filled in school education, 39,821 in power sector, 5,301 in health department, 3,500 in agriculture, 4,566 in cooperation department, 2,198 in higher education, 2,072 in irrigation, 2,852 in PWD (B&R), 2,628 in revenue, 3,952 in transport and 1,584 in water supply and sanitation departments, the release said.