The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, popularly known as AFSPA, was enacted in 1958 to bring under control what the government of India considered ‘disturbed’ areas.
The Act has often faced flak from human rights groups as it gave sweeping powers and immunity to the army in conflict-ridden areas.History
- The Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance of 1942 was promulgated by the British on 15 August 1942 to suppress the Quit India Movement.
- On the lines of this ordinance, the Government of India promulgated four ordinances in 1947 to deal with internal security issues arising due to partition in Bengal, Assam, East Bengal and United Provinces.
- These ordinances, which later became acts, were repealed in 1957 but a year later, re-enacted in Assam and Manipur as Armed forces (Assam & Manipur) Special Powers Act 1958 due to growing Naga insurgency.
- Gradually, the scope of the act was extended to all seven states of North East. Later, the act was extended to Punjab and Chandigarh via Armed Forces(Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act in 1983.
- This act was withdrawn in 1997. In 1990, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 was enacted.
- AFSPA grants the army, central police forces, and state police personnel in “disturbed areas” “certain special powers,” including the right to shoot to kill, to raid houses, and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents, and “to arrest without warrant” even on “reasonable suspicion” a person who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence.”
- Once a person is taken into custody, he / she has to be handed over to the nearest police station as soon as possible.
- Prosecution of the officer on duty needs prior permission of the Central Government.
Tripura, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (except the Imphal municipal area), Arunachal Pradesh (only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts plus a 20-km belt bordering Assam), Meghalaya (confined to a 20-km belt bordering Assam) and Jammu and Kashmir.Why Is This Act Required?
The government (either the state or centre) considers those areas to be ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”How does one officially declare a region to be ‘disturbed’?
- Section (3) of the AFSPA Act empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification on The Gazette of India, following which the centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid.
- Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.