Why in News?
The Centre has announced that it revoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya from April 1.
FACTS FOR PRELIMS
Armed Forces Special Powers Act
AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving a due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law. If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
A disturbed area is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of the AFSPA. An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
The Central Government or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
States Under AFSPA
It is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Centre revoked it in Meghalaya on April 1, 2018. Earlier, the AFSPA was effective in a 20 km area along the Assam-Meghalaya border. In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA was reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam.
Tripura withdrew the AFSPA in 2015. Jammu and Kashmir too has a similar Act.
Jeevan Reddy Committee Report
In 2005, the five-member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the northeastern states and recommended that –
(a) AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967;
(b) The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and
(c) grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.
The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA.
The Supreme Court of India has ruled that army and paramilitary forces cannot use excessive and retaliatory force during counter-insurgency operations in disturbed areas declared disturbed under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958.
Criminal courts have the jurisdiction over cases of alleged excesses by security forces which earlier were under the blanket of immunity provided by AFSPA.