MHA extends ‘Disturbed area’ status in parts of Arunachal, Nagaland
Polity & Governance
29th Sep, 2023
The Union Home Ministry has extended the disturbed area status in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 for another six months.
- Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was enacted by the Parliament in 1958.
- In 1958, it was first made applicable to the Naga Hills, then part of Assam.
- Then later, it expanded to other parts of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh.
- In 1983, the law was extended to Punjab and Chandigarh, but it was withdrawn in 1997.
- In 1990, it was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since.
About the present situation:
- The Central government in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the AFSPA 1958 had declared the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts and other areas bordering the state of Assam in Arunachal Pradesh as ‘disturbed area’ on March 24, 2023.
- Now, as the situation is not under control yet, the Central government in exercise of the powers conferred by the AFSPA, 1958 had declared eight districts and 16 police stations in five other districts of Nagaland as ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months with effect from April 1, 2023.
What is ‘Disturbed Area’ status?
- A disturbed area is one that is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
- An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
- The Act grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces to maintain public order in "disturbed areas".
- The AFSPA gives armed forces personnel, operating in disturbed areas, sweeping powers to search, arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for maintenance of public order.
- AFSPA to be enacted only when a state, or part of it, is declared a 'disturbed area'.
- According to the Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976 once an area is declared as 'disturbed', it remains under the category for a minimum of 6 months.
Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA):
- The Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance of 1942 was imposed by the British colonial government on 15 August 1942 to suppress the Quit India Movement.
- After Independence, the Ordinance was invoked by the Indian government to deal with the internal security situation which emerged due to the Partition of India.
Article 355 of the Constitution of India confers power to the Central Government to protect every state from internal disturbance.
What are Special Powers under AFSPA?
- Power to arrest anyone without a warrant and may use force if needed for the arrest.
- If a person acts against law or order in the disturbed area, then army personnel are allowed to Fire after giving warning or use other kinds of force even if it causes death.
- Enter and search any area or shelter in order to make arrests, they also have the power to destroy that area or shelter.
- Power to stop and search any vehicle or vessel.
- Any person arrested and taken into custody under this act shall be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with least possible delay.
- Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law.
- The Government's Power to declare an area as ‘disturbed area’ is not under judicial review.
Arguments in the support of AFSPA:
Arguments against AFSPA:
- Neither the soldiers nor their superiors have any training in civilian law or policing procedures. That is why a special law like AFSPA needed to legitimize the presence and acts of armed forces in extraordinary situations.
- Repealing the act will encourage insurgency, militancy and also threaten the peace and unity of the nation.
- The Army needs such powers because the army is only deployed when national security is at serious risk. “Extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary measures".
- The act has been criticized for human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement.
- This law started a Vicious cycle in the North East: The use of the AFSPA pushes the demand for more autonomy, giving the people of the North East more reason to secede from a state which enacted such powers and these agitation justify the use of the AFSPA from the point of view of the Indian Government.