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AFSPA in northeast

  • Published
    29th Apr, 2022
Context

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said that efforts were on to improve the law-and-order situation for the controversial AFSPA to be completely lifted from the northeast.

About

What is Armed forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1958?

  • The Act came into force in the context of increasing violence in the North eastern States decades ago, which the State governments found difficult to control.
  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and it was approved by the President on September 11, 1958.
  • It became known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
  • Powers-
  • AFSPA provides for special powers for the armed forces that can be imposed by the Centre or the Governor of a state, on the state or parts of it, after it is declared “disturbed’’ under Section 3.
  • The Act defines these as areas that are “disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary’’.
  • AFSPA has been used in areas where militancy has been prevalent
  • If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
  • Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.

Where is it in use?

  • At present, it is in force in Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, J&K, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh

Previous experts Recommendation on AFSPA

  • Jeevan Reddy Committee: 
    • A committee headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy was appointed in 2004 to review AFSPA. Though the committee found that the powers conferred under the Act are not absolute, it nevertheless concluded that the Act should be repealed.
    • However, it recommended that essential provisions of the Act be inserted into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967.
    • The key recommendations of the Reddy Committee were:
      • In case the situation so warrants, the state government may request the Union government to deploy the army for not more than six months.
      • The Union government may also deploy the armed forces without a request from the state. However, the situation should be reviewed after six months and Parliament’s approval should be sought for extending the deployment.
      • Non-commissioned officers may continue to have the power to fire.
      • The Union government should set up an independent grievances cell in each district where the Act is in force.
  • Justice Verma report mentioned the Act as a part of a section on offences against women in conflict areas. 
    • “Sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law,” the report said, adding that “there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA and AFSPA-like legal protocols in internal conflict areas as soon as possible.”
    • This resonates with the ruling by the Supreme Court that the Army and police are not free to use excess force even under the AFSPA. However, none of these have made any real difference to the status of the AFSPA.
  • The Second Administrative Reforms Commission headed by then Union law minister M Veerappa Moily also recommended that AFSPA should be repealed and its essential provisions should be incorporated in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
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