The recent killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district has brought AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) back under scrutiny. AFSPA was enacted by Parliament in 1958 to control the insurgency infested areas or regions that have largely been under contention between the government and human rights groups. The later has been accusing security forces of committing atrocities under the grab of AFSPA.
AFSPA gives armed forces in the country special powers to control ‘disturbed areas’. These ‘disturbed areas’ are designated by the government when it is of the opinion that a region is in such a precarious situation that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
The area or region to be declared ‘disturbed,’ according to Union Home Ministry notification is when: “In relation to any State or Union territory to which this Act extends, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of that Union territory or the Central Government, in either case, is of the opinion that the whole or any part of such State or Union territory, as the case may be, is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of that Union territory or the Central Government, as the case may be, may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare the whole or such part of such State or Union territory to be a disturbed area.
How AFSPA empowers security forces?
Under its provisions, the armed forces have been empowered to open fire, enter and search without warrant, and arrest any person who has committed a cognisable offence, all while having immunity from being prosecuted.
AFSPA also mandates
“Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with the least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest.”
Where is AFSPA contentious?
Under the law “no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted”, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person “in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act”.
The areas in India currently where AFSPA is in effect
It was initially aimed to counter Naga insurgency, while it was extended to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. Subsequently, the law also has undergone several amendments. At present, AFSPA is in effect in Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Where has AFSPA been repealed?
It has been repealed where insurgencies have subsided, and the government deems it fit to pass the baton of law and order to the respective state police. AFSPA was repealed in Tripura in 2015, and in 2018 the Centre also removed Meghalaya from the list, while also restricting its use in Arunachal Pradesh.