Explained: AFSPA and the Northeast

What is the News?

Nagaland Cabinet has recommended that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 be repealed from the state after the incident in Mon district in which security forces gunned down 13 civilians.

What is AFSPA?

AFSPA was originally promulgated by the British in response to the Quit India movement in 1942. 

After Independence, India decided to retain the Act, which was first brought in as an ordinance and then notified as an Act in 1958.

Where is AFSPA currently invoked?

AFSPA can be imposed by the Center or the Governor of a state on the state or parts of it after it is declared “disturbed’’ under Section 3 of AFSPA Act.

The Act defines Disturbed as areas that are “disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary’.

Currently, the AFSPA Act is in force in Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, J&K, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.

What are the powers granted by the AFSPA Act to armed forces?

The Act gives sweeping powers to the armed forces.

Firstly, It allows them to ‘open fire’, even causing death, against any person in contravention to the law or carrying arms and ammunition.

Secondly, It gives them powers to arrest individuals without warrants, on the basis of reasonable suspicion and also search premises without warrants.

Thirdly, It also provides blanket immunity to security personnel involved in such operations. There can be no prosecution or legal proceedings against them without the prior approval of the Center.

What are the safety nets provided under the AFSPA Act?

The Act gives powers to security forces to open fire. But this cannot be done without prior warning given to the suspect. 

The Act further says that any suspects apprehended by security forces should be handed over to the local police station within 24 hours.

Moreover, it also says that armed forces must act in cooperation with the district administration and not as an independent body.

Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: AFSPA and the Northeastpublished in Indian Express on 8th December 2021.

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