Why in News?
The Centre has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Assam for one more month, declaring the entire state of Assam as a “disturbed” area due to various violent activities by insurgent groups ULFA, NDFB, and others.
Facts ( for Prelims)
- The Union home ministry also declared Meghalaya’s border areas adjoining Assam, and three districts in Arunachal Pradesh as “disturbed” under the AFSPA for two more months with effect from August 3.
- Assam has been declared “disturbed” under the AFSPA with effect from August 3 till August 31.
- The 20 km belt in Meghalaya bordering Assam will also continue to be a “disturbed area” under the AFSPA with effect from August 3 to September 30.
- It has also declared as “disturbed” under the AFSPA three districts of Arunachal Pradesh — Tirap, Changlang and Longding — and areas falling within the jurisdiction of 14 police stations in nine other districts of the state with effect from August 4 to September 30.
- AFSPA has been continuing in Assam since November 1990. In the three Arunachal Pradesh districts, the AFSPA has been in force since January 2016.
- The violence perpetrated in Assam and Meghalaya by insurgent groups like ULFA, NDFB.
- Arunachal Pradesh — NSCN(IM), NSCN(K), ULFA, NDFB.
Analysis ( for Mains)
AFSPA, enacted in 1958, gives powers to the army and state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents in areas declared as “disturbed”.
Powers of AFSPA:
According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as “disturbed”, an officer of the armed forces has powers to:
- After giving such due warning, Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against law or order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order,
- Destroy any arms dump, hide-outs, prepared or fortified position or shelter or training camp from which armed attacks are made by the armed volunteers or armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence.
- To arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest.
- To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it.
Critical Analysis: ( For Mains)
The Act has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as a “tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination”.
“This reasoning exemplifies the vicious cycle which has been instituted in the North East due to the AFSPA. The use of the AFSPA pushes the demand for more autonomy, giving the people of the North East more reason to want to secede from a state which enacts such powers and the agitation which ensues continues to justify the use of the AFSPA from the point of view of the Indian Government.” – The South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre.
United Nations view
When India presented its second periodic report to the United Nations Human Rights Committeein 1991, members of the UNHRC asked numerous questions about the validity of the AFSPA. They questioned the constitutionality of the AFSPA under Indian law and asked how it could be justified in light of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR. On 23 March 2009, UN Commissioner for Human Rights asked India to repeal the AFSPA. UN termed the law as “dated and colonial-era law that breach contemporary international human rights standards.”
Supreme Court of India view
Supreme Court said that any encounter carried out by armed forces in the garb of AFSPA should be subjected to thorough inquiry. In the words of supreme court “It does not matter whether the victim was a common person or a militant or a terrorist, nor does it matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the state.The law is the same for both and is equally applicable to both… This is the requirement of a democracy and the requirement of preservation of the rule of law and the preservation of individual liberties.”
Source: The Hindu and TOI.