The Hush Post: The Punjab Cabinet has approved amendments to CrPC and IPC to make sacrilege of all religious texts punishable with life imprisonment, thus taking a major step towards curbing such incidents and maintaining communal harmony in the state.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, here on Tuesday. The Cabinet also approved a series of other Bills to be tabled before the Assembly in the forthcoming session.
According to an official spokesperson, the Cabinet has approved insertion of Section 295AA to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to provide that “whoever causes 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, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.”
The Cabinet has okayed the withdrawal of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill No.7-PLA-2016) and the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill No.6-PLA-2016), passed in the 12th Session of 14th Vidhan Sabha, 2016. It has given its nod to the introduction of ‘The Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018 and the Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018, in the ensuing session of Punjab Vidhan Sabha.
*Reservation of SC employees in promotions*
In order to safeguard the interests of Scheduled Castes, the Cabinet has okayed the introduction of a Bill in the Vidhan Sabha for ensuring restoration of 14 percent reservation in Group A and B and 20 percent reservation in Group C and D to the members of Scheduled Castes in promotions. The enactment of the legislation would pave the way for implementation of the benefit of reservation in promotion as provided in Article 16(4)(A) of the Constitution of India with effect from February 20, 2018.
Pertinently, the Punjab and Haryana High Court in its judgment on February 20, 2018 had struck down sections 4 (3), 4(4) and 4 (8) of “The Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes (Reservation in Services) Act, 2006” following which the Punjab Government had decided to restore 14 percent reservation in Group A and B and 20 percent reservation in Group C and D to SC employees.
*Constitution of Punjab State Higher Education Council*
In another move, the Cabinet has approved the constitution of Punjab State Higher Education Council by bringing a bill in Vidhan Sabha. The move is aimed at ensuring planned and coordinated development of Higher Education in the state. The Council to be headed by the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh will have the Higher Education Minister as its Vice-Chairman and Administrative Secretary, Higher Education as Member Secretary.
The move, which would fulfill one of the pre-requisites of the next phase of Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan-2 (RUSA) for the state to be eligible for receiving grants under the Central scheme, was primarily aimed at ensuring quality higher education in Punjab’s institutions by facilitating optimum sharing of resources between universities and colleges, especially for research purposes, academic and governance reforms besides monitoring and evaluation of Higher Education institutions. For the next phase of RUSA which commenced in June this year, an outlay of Rs. 174 Crores had been approved by the Project Approval Board of the MHRD in 60:40 centre-state ratio.
In addition, the Council will have on board Vice-Chancellors of State Universities, Principals of Government Colleges and eminent persons from the fields of Arts, Science, Technology, Culture, Industry etc who have made substantive and recognizable contribution to their respective fields, the official spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office said.
*LoP allowed to use private car *
The Punjab Cabinet has accepted the proposal of the Department of Parliamentary Affairs to allow leader of opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha to use his private car in lieu of government car, which would be returned by him to the government. The department had mooted the proposal after the former LoP had requested to allow him to use his private vehicle in lieu of government vehicle.
The cabinet has okayed the proposal to make amendment to section-8 of Salary and Allowances of Leader of Opposition in Legislative Assembly Act-1978 to facilitate this move. The necessary memorandum will now be sent to Legal Remembrance to prepare draft of the bill to be presented in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.
*Service extension for Animal Husbandry service providers*
In another decision, the state has decided to extend the Contract of service providers, including 516 Veterinary pharmacists and 531 Safai Sewaks, up to March 30, 2019, to provide better services to dairy farmers in the remote rural areas, and to implement new activities and schemes of the Animal Husbandry Department. The Cabinet has approved a proposal of the Animal Husbandry Department in this regard.
The official spokesperson said the Punjab government had already transferred back 582 Civil Veterinary Hospitals to the Animal Husbandry Department. This included the transfer of 582 sanctioned posts of Rural Veterinary Officers from Rural Development and Panchayats Department.
The Chief Minister said it was imperative to strengthen the Animal Husbandry Department to provide proper healthcare facilities to the livestock to encourage farmers to diversify into dairy farming. He said that the Department of Animal Husbandry is contributing about 13% of GDP to the economic growth of Punjab, along with the Agriculture Sector.
*PMIDF Act extended to 2037-38*
The Cabinet also approved the proposal of the Local Government department for amending the validity of Punjab Municipal Infrastructure Development Fund (PMIDF) Act, 2011, to extend its validity till 2037-38, from the earlier 2020-21. This decision would help in availing Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) loan worth Rs.1540 crore for the completion of ongoing Water Supply & Sewerage and STP works under the Urban Mission in the state. The Cabinet has given its nod for the presentation of the related Bill in the forthcoming session of the Vidhan Sabha.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet has approved Annual Administrative Reports of the Departments of Cooperation (Audit) and Defence Services Welfare for the year 2016-17.