Govt Re-Examines AFSPA to Make it “Milder” for J&K, North East

Making arrests without warrants, and “using force, even to the extent of death”, are some provisions under AFSPA.

2 min read
Women hold placards during a protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives military personnel special immunity and rights in “disturbed areas” like Jammu and Kashmir and states in north east India, will be re-examined by the government so it can become less open to misuse, as The Times of India reported.

Several rounds of high-level discussions have taken place between the defence and home ministries, according to sources, on the “need for removing or diluting some provisions” of the AFSPA in line with the Supreme Court’s judgments on “extra-judicial killings” and expert committee recommendations over the years.

The discussions have mainly been around Section 4 and 7 of the Act which are the ones that accord far-reaching powers and legal safeguards to the security forces as they undertake terror operations.

Making arrests without warrants, and “using force, even to the extent of death”, stopping and searching any vehicle are all powers under Section 4.

The AFSPA was first enacted by the Parliament in 1958 to tackle north-eastern insurgency and the defence establishment argues that it’s an “enabling act”, providing “operational flexibility and protection” to the personnel which operates in “extremely hostile environments” against terrorists and other inimical forces.

Latest statistics show that the Centre rejected sanctioning the J&K government’s prosecution of military personnel in 47 of the 50 cases submitted since 2001.

In Rajya Sabha last week, Minister of State for Defence, Subhash Bhamre said:

The reason for denial/pendency of prosecution sanction is on account of lack of sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case.

A senior officer, in turn, said:

AFSPA provides legal protection to soldiers from being dragged to civilian courts. It stipulates the procedure for prosecution of military personnel to prevent them from getting implicated in fabricated cases... There may be a case for withdrawal of AFSPA from some `disturbed areas’ in the north east like in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, where the situation has improved. But same is not the case in J&K, with the terror training infrastructure fully alive and kicking in Pakistan. While infiltration bids across the Line of Control continue unabated, local recruitment of militants has also gone up.

Parties like the People’s Democratic Party, which is in power in J&K in coalition with the BJP, has called the act “draconian” and asked for its scrapping.

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