What is AFSPA?
AFSPA or Armed Forces Special Power Act is a collective name for the several acts passed by the Parliament of India that offers special power to the Indian Army in what each act is termed as “disturbed areas”.
All the north eastern states (Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura) and Jammu & Kashmir come under the disturbed areas.
As per the Disturbed Area Special Courts Act of 1976, the disturbed area has to maintain the status quo for at least 90 days.
In the recent times, this act has received a lot of criticism from different sections for suspected concerns about the violation of human rights in areas of enforcements alleged to have happened.
There are politicians like Saifuddin Soz and P Chidambaram of Congress Party that advocated the suspension of AFSPA while there are ministers like Amrinder Singh who supports this act of Parliament.
Why and When Armed Forces Special Power Act was enacted?
The Armed Forces Special Power Act was enacted in the year 1958 in order to bring the places under control which is regarded as “disturbed areas” by government of India.
This act was first implemented in Assam and Manipur in 1995 after the notorious Naga movement.
The Central Government has given special power to the Governors of the State to take the call if any place or region comes under the category of “disturbed areas” and allow the armed forces to take necessary action against the culprits or people who are suspected of illegal activities.
The AFSPA has been implemented in the north eastern states of India for the past 50 years.
Apart from that, this special act was used in Kashmir and Punjab in late 1970s and 1983 respectively.
What powers are conferred under AFSPA?
As per the Armed Forces Special Power Act, an officer of Indian army has the following powers in the areas that are proclaimed as disturbed:
# Destroy any kind of training camps, shelters, fortified positions, hideouts or arms dumps from which attacks are made by people who can be armed gangs, terrorists or absconders who want to create a state of anarchy in the disturbed areas.
# After giving the warning, the officer can use ammunitions or any other kind of brutal forces even if it is fatal against any individual or group of people who are acting against the law in the disturbed areas in order to maintain public order.
# To enter and search any kind of premise or building for making such arrests or recovering individuals who are detained or recovery of any arms, explosive substances or ammunitions and make efforts to seize them.
# To arrest any person without warrant who has committed any kind of cognizable crime or offense or might be suspected of doing any bad activities.
The officer may use brutal forces if needed in order to arrest that person.
# Make any vehicle stop and search the items present inside it if the individual is being suspected for carrying any kind of explosives or firearms in the vehicle.
# Any individual who is being arrested and taken under custody will be made to appear before the officer in charge of the nearest police station without any kind of inordinate delay.
The appearance should have proper documents about the circumstances of the arrest of the individual.
# All the officers under the Armed Forces Special Power Act will have legal immunity for all their actions.
The concerned officer will not be prosecuted, sued or filed for any kind of legal proceeding against any individual.
The disturbed area will also not come under judicial review by the Government of India.
# The people who are acting in good faith are protected under this particular act from any kind of suit, legal proceedings or criminal prosecution except with sanction of Central Government while exercising the powers conferred in this special act.
However, it is to be noted that on 8th July 2016, the Supreme Court of India has completely ended the legal immunity of the officers in armed forces from any kind of prosecution.
There was an 85 page judgment in which it is said that it does not matter whether the victim is a common person or terrorist or militant.
Everyone is equal under this law and democracy is required for the preservation of liberties and rights of the individuals.
Is AFSPA a Good Measure from Government of India?
It is to be noted that Armed Forces Special Power Act has been severely criticized by people of all quarters of the society.
Many people consider it as a draconian law that has been widely misused by the armed forces for the sake of maintaining law and order in the state.
The armed officers are not hesitant in doing encounters which in turn takes the life of several innocent people who are suspected under this particular act.
This is a clear violation of the Fundamental Rights outlaid in the Constitution of India.
It is to be noted that several nonprofit organizations and activists of human rights have been demonstrating for the complete removal of this act from the north eastern states and Kashmir.
This act has not been successful in containing insurgency and maintaining law and order in the disturbed areas.