As we all know the security situation in India after partition has remained quite critical since then. There are frequent terrorist attacks in Kashmir valley. Many innocent people have lost their lives due to such attacks. However these attacks have been limited to only certain areas of India like the north-east and the union territories of J&K. The need for Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) arose because the situation had become adverse in these areas and the Police were not able to tackle the internal disturbances happening here. Hence, the Indian Army was given special powers to handle the situation in such disturbed areas only. The Disturbed Area Act was introduced in 1958 which further led to the establishment of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and was passed in the Parliament in 1990 in order to give the Indian Armed Forces special powers to control the internal disturbances . The Government had taken this decision to enact this act because paramilitary forces and the police were unsuccessful in controlling the situations in disturbed areas. Initially it came into existence to fight with the Naga Rebellions in Assam and Manipur. The act was extended further to Jammu & Kashmir as frequent terrorist activities had led to a tense situation in the valley. The need for AFSPA was brought in because it was an effective way to maintain law and order as well as militant activities. This act has given immense power to the armed forces which includes arresting suspects without warrants, stopping and searching vehicles, using force on people who are causing destruction etc. The article will be focusing on the necessity of AFSPA.
The Need To Implement Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)
India got its independence on 15th Aug, 1947 and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the first elected Prime Minister. He faced his first insurgency in the districts of Assam in Naga, along the border with Myanmar. A majority of the Nagas had been converted to Christianity by the Baptist missionaries and an educated leadership appeared in the form of the Naga National Council. The Nagas started an insurgency for independence in 1954. India replied by sending the Assam Rifles to suppress the uprising of thousands of Indian Army soldiers and paramilitary men. Nehru’s government passed the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in 1990 in the Indian parliament to further arm his counterinsurgents and provide them with legal protection. The need to implement the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) became a necessity from the north-east.
The Provisions Laid Out Under AFSPA:
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has given immense powers to the Indian Army. AFSPA is applicable to or extends to areas which are declared as Disturbed Areas. The act is not levied in all the parts of India. According to Section (3) of AFSPA it is compulsory to get the State Government’s advice on whether or not an environment is being disrupted. If an area is declared to be a disturbed area, it will be under special force control for at least three months. The act has given the following powers to the army:-
- Armed forces can search any house without a warrant and use the appropriate power to search for it.
- Provisions of AFSPA 1990 authorises the Central Govt to deploy armed forces in areas declared as Disturbed
- May apprehend any suspect without a warrant.
- Under this rule, the armed forces have the right to prohibit the assembly of five or more persons in a region.
- In some situations, the powers can open fire on the troubling factors if they see some suspicious individual after giving due notice.
- When the Armed Forces believe that any terrorist or criminal is hidden in some house / building the forces then have the powers to destroy the house or building.
- They are free to stop and search any vehicle.
- Even if there is any misconduct from the side of armed forces, there is no punitive action taken against them.
Significance Of AFSPA
AFSPA is only enforced in extraordinary circumstances in order to maintain the law and order as well as the security of a nation. This act plays an essential role in India because without the existence of this act in union territories like Jammu & Kashmir and parts of the north-east would have been lost. Furthermore, it is important to note that without the special powers being given to the Armed Forces, Punjab would not have become normal and Khalistan would still be the militants aim. The Army has claimed that without the use of AFSPA, it can not control militancy and extremism as the situation in the rebellion areas is extreme and there is a significant threat to life due to the special circumstances. Terrorists are always difficult to find and identify among civilians, they are assisted around borders, they are aided by informers and traitors, and there is often a possibility of unexpected gunfire from each corner. It is also difficult for the Army to follow the conventional and tedious detection and investigation protocols normally followed by the police in such aggressive circumstances. Moreover, the Armed forces act in aid to civil authority to restore normalcy and follow basic principles of use of minimum force, good faith , impartiality and necessity. They need to co-opt civil police wherever possible and ensure all powers under the act are exercised under orders of an officer, JCO or NCO. The Indian Armed Forces have always followed their duty towards the civilians unlike countries such as U.S, Pakistan, Iran etc. These countries have given priority to the defence services rather than the civilians when it comes to control militancy. But Indian Armed Forces have stuck to their principles and assisted the civilians during disasters and other natural occurings. Therefore, one should not forget how necessary it is for the nation to have an army along with AFSPA.
The Oppositions Viewpoint
Opposition to the AFSPA came from the United Nations and some human rights groups which claimed the Act was oppressive and violated citizens’ fundamental human rights. They also accused the Security Forces of unlawful use of force, torture, extra-judicial executions, abductions and massacres of innocent people. Irom Sharmila’s 16-year hunger strike in Manipur over AFSPA’s abuse has highlighted the need for a relook on how the Act is actually being implemented. The Santosh Hegde Deaths Incident Commission on Manipur proposed that the AFSPA be made more humane, and that the security forces be kept responsible for abuses. It has called for a quarterly review of AFSPA compliance based on the situation on the field. The Commission for Justice Jeevan Reddy called for its elimination by calling it a “symbol of bigotry, injustice and heavy handling.” For fear of the revival of militancy and things getting out of hand again, the state governments have not been brave enough to call for its annulment.
The situation is still volatile in parts of the North-East, and especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and continued enforcement of AFSPA becomes inevitable. Without it, these States will become the hub of terrorist and anti-national activities that pose a serious threat to peace and national safety. However, it is also important that the officials in question use the Act with flexibility and without antagonizing their civilian friends. Furthermore, the opposition primarily the Human Rights groups should not forget that the Supreme Court Of India in 2016 had taken an important decision with respect to any encounter that is carried out by the Indian Armed Forces under AFSPA that a thorough investigation would be undertaken as a welcome relief to human rights activists and at the same time serve as a warning sign to some security personnel who may be prone to misuse it.
- What is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) about?
- Why is it necessary to implement this act?
- What are the relevant provisions under this act and how are they helping out the nation?
- Why is it important to levy this act in certain states where there are internal disturbances?
- Why are some people criticizing this act?