Nagaland killings rekindled debate on AFSPA
GS Paper - 2 (Polity)
The recent killings of civilians by security forces in a case of alleged mistaken identity in Nagaland have once again rekindled the debate over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law that gives enormous discretionary powers to the armed forces over a civilian population. Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said he has urged the Centre to remove AFSPA from Nagaland as the law is a “black spot on the image of the country”.
What is AFSPA?
- AFSPA gives armed forces special powers to control “disturbed areas”, which are designated by the government when it is of the opinion that a region is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
- 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 can be implemented in an area after it has been declared as “disturbed”.
- The power to declare a territory “disturbed” initially lay with the states, but passed to the Centre in 1972.
- Currently, AFSPA is in effect in Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
- The law is based on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance of 1942, which was issued during the Quit India movement.
- Enacted by Parliament on 11 September 1958, AFSPA was first implemented in the Northeast, and then in Punjab.
- In 2016, the Supreme Court delivered a stinging rebuke to the government over the continuation of AFSPA. The SC judgment clarified that the notion that the Act provides a free hand to security forces is flawed.