The Congress government in Punjab has finally done the impossible. On Monday, the Assembly passed two Bills proposing life imprisonment for acts of sacrilege, much to the surprise of former state bureaucrats, who urged the Amarinder Singh government to withdraw them as it was fishing in very troubled waters, says a report in The Tribune. The ex-officials called the move ‘bad in law’ and ‘politically expedient’.
In a direct letter to the Chief Minister, 34 bureaucrats expressed alarm at the passage of the Indian Penal Code Punjab Amendment Bill 2018 and the Code of Criminal Procedure Punjab Amendment Bill 2018 and said that in all faith they hoped he would not trump the ‘cherished principles of secularism’. The officials also argued that such blasphemy laws were against the spirit of the Constitution, and therefore, legally invalid.
They felt that instead of separating the state from religion, which, ideally, is the aim of secularism, the state is integrating itself with religion, thus opening the floodgates to fanaticism and religious extremism.
The bureaucrats also pointed out that such laws were invariably used to bamboozle minorities and weaker sections and hence was dangerous.
In the letter, they said the word ‘sacrilege’ suffered from a definitional problem, and cautioned the Chief Minister against the use of loose words which would leave the law open to devious interpretation and abuse of power by vested political interests.
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