Described by many as a draconian law, the AFSPA, or the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, confers special powers to armed forces to respond at will in the "disturbed areas" to maintain law and order.
In a 'disturbed area' a military officer can fire upon an unlawful assembly of five or more people if the need arises or even for illegal possession of fire arms. The military is free to use force even causing death to perpetrators as per the law. No arrest and search warrants are required for any operation as per the provisions of the law. Due to the massive power it gives to soldiers there is always the fear of its misuse and such instances have occurred as well.
The law is at present active in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
In 1990, an amendment bill was passed to include the state of Jammu and Kashmir under its purview. Manipur, however, withdrew the Act from some places against the wishes of the Central government in August 2004.
Under AFSPA, Central forces can tackle local issues, fight social unrest and can be redeployed if necessary to restore peace as per the request of the state administration. As per Act 7 of 1972, the Central government can declare areas as 'disturbed'.
The 'disturbed' area status is given in serious situations to help the civilian administration. It provides legal immunity to troops operating in those designated areas.
Protest against the Act
The Act has seen mass protests especially in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir. On 10 September 2010, a protest against the Act in Kashmir turned violent. In Manipur, Irom Sharmila Chanu is on a hunger strike since 2 November 2000 demanding the repealing of the Act from the state.
Jeevan Reddy Commission report
The Central government appointed a five-member committee under former Supreme Court judge Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review if the Act needs to be tonned down or repealed completely and replace it by a humane one. In its 147-report, the committee on 6 June 2005 recommended the repealing of the Act. However, the government did not agree with the recommendation.
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Updated Date: Oct 12, 2011 15:17:41 IST