AFSPA stands for Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a law which grants special powers to the Armed Forces of India to act in the disturbed areas of the country. The Act was passed in the Parliament on 11th September, 1978, but has faced severe criticism from many sources, with regard to human rights violations having taken place in the areas where the law has been enforced in the country. While some noted politicians such as Saifuddin Soz and P Chidambaram have spoken in favor of the law being revoked, others like Amarinder Singh have lent their support to the Act. After the Act being passed in 1978, it has been enforced in the North Eastern states, Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab and Chandigarh.
Provisions of AFSPA Law
According to AFSPA, in a disturbed area of the country, an officer of the armed forces has been given the following powers:
- After a due warning he has the power to fire upon or use any other means of force against a person, who acts against law and order, even if it causes his death.
- The officer can destroy any arms dump, hide outs, shelter/fortified position/training camps from which armed attacks have been made by armed gangs/armed volunteers/absconders wanted by the police.
- He can arrest any such person without a warrant, any person who has committed a cognizable offence or is suspected to have done so, and may also use force for the arrest.
- He can enter and search any premises to make such arrests or recover someone who has been restrained wrongfully or arms/ammunition/explosive material, and seize the same.
- Stop and search any such vehicle or vessel which he suspects to carry such a person or weapons.
- Such a person arrested and taken to custody should be made over to the officer in charge at the nearest police station along with a report regarding the circumstances which led to the arrest.
- Army officers have been given legal immunity for such actions, for which they have not to face any legal proceeding, law suit or prosecution. The judgment of the government regarding a place being a disturbed area is also not subject to judicial review.
- The Law protects a person acting in good faith under the act from legal proceeding, law suit or prosecution, except in case of sanction by the Central Government, in exercise of powers conferred by the Act.
Pros and Cons of AFSPA
The suitability of AFSPA has been a matter of debate, with its serious complications and pros and cons. Here is a list of them:
- People who advocate in favor of the Law say that it is necessary to maintain law and order in the disturbed areas of the country, otherwise things will go haywire here.
- The law dissuades advancement of terrorist activities in these areas.
- It ensures the safety of the common people, who have to live under the fear of lawlessness in the area.
- It is considered inhuman to have people forced to live in curfew like conditions for their entire lives.
- The act curbs the secular freedom of many people as they have to face suspicion and discrimination on the basis of their religions.
- There have been several cases of human rights violations such as rapes and encounters, during the enforcement of the Law.
The topic regarding the revocation of AFSPA Law is rather a heated one and the debate continues.