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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. AFSPA can be implemented in an area after it has been declared as “disturbed”.
  4. The power to declare a territory “disturbed” initially lay with the states, but passed to the Centre in 1972.
  5. Currently, AFSPA is in effect in Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.

Flashback

  1. The law is based on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance of 1942, which was issued during the Quit India movement.
  2. Enacted by Parliament on 11 September 1958, AFSPA was first implemented in the Northeast, and then in Punjab.
  3. 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.