Should the AFSPA be revoked?

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 27, 2013 10:44 hrs

Meghalaya Governor R.S. Mooshahary Sunday advocated that the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) must be replaced with an amended Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) so that both security forces and civilians rights are protected.

"AFSPA represents the face of the security force, but the CrPC does not. So, it needs to be replaced with some act that is both for the civilians and the armed forces," Mooshahary told IANS.

"The AFSPA should be repealed and instead the CrPC must be amended suitably with relevant provisions for protection of the rights of the security forces together with those of the civilians," he suggested.

Mooshahary, who favoured the repeal of AFSPA in the region, said that prolonged use of the AFSPA has alienated the civil society.

"We cannot contain insurgency related violence by alienating the citizens; we can do so more effectively by involving them. If the CrPC is amended, it would not be an isolated act only for the civilians, but also be dealing with the rights of the security forces," the former chief of the elite National Security Guard said.

"In the amended act the rights of the security forces as well as the civilians can be adequately taken care of."

The AFSPA was passed in 1990 to grant special powers and immunity from prosecution to security forces to deal with raging insurgencies in northeastern states - in large parts of Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Nagaland and some parts of Meghalaya and in Jammu and Kashmir.

The act is targeted by local human rights groups and international campaigners such as Amnesty International, which say the law has been an excuse for extrajudicial killings.

Amnesty has campaigned vociferously against the legislation, which it sees as a stain on India's democratic credentials and a violation of international human rights laws.

However, army officials dealing in counter-insurgency have maintained that it is for the central and the state governments to decide whether to repeal or continue the act.

"Human right groups never speak against the violence committed against security forces. For the men in uniform, the AFSPA is one of the acts that gives their human rights protection," said an army official, who is involved in counter-insurgency operations in Manipur.

Irom Sharmila Chanu, a human rights activist, has been on indefinite hunger strike for nearly a decade in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of the AFSPA from the state.

Several human rights groups, including the powerful North East Students' Organisation (NESO), has also been demanding withdrawal of the AFSPA from the northeast.

"Instead of solving the militancy problem in the northeast, the act is complicating the situation. It has resulted in a war between the people and the members of the armed forces," said NESO chairman Samuel Jyrwa.

In view of the outcry against the AFSPA, the central government had appointed a five-member committee headed by Supreme Court Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy a few years ago to examine whether the legislated law was required or not.

After visiting all affected states, the committee submitted its report to the central government in October 2006. The union government has not yet made the findings public.

Not only the Jeevan Reddy's Committee, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily too has recommended that the controversial act must be reviewed.

AFSPA is against democracy, Constitution, says Habibullah

National Commission on Minorities chairman Wajahat Habibullah today said the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was "against democracy and Constitution" and its "loopholes" should be removed after discussions with the Army if the law cannot be withdrawn from troubled areas.

He said such a law should not exist in any democratic setup.

Habibullah was commenting on The Justice Verma Committee recommendations about amendments to AFSPA so that armed forces and police personnel are not be given protection under the law if they commit sexual offences against women.

When asked about the demands for removing AFSPA from Kashmir Valley and northeast region, he said, "Any decision to remove this law should be taken after discussion with Army."

"If this law cannot be removed, then the loopholes in this law should be removed. This should be done after discussions with Army," Habibullah said.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was passed by the Parliament in 1958. It gives special powers to armed forces in troubled areas. It was first implemented in the north east, but following increased terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, it was implemented in the northern state in 1990.

Human Rights organisations are against the Act, as they claim that officers committing human rights violations get away with their crime due to the Act.

Habibullah rpt Habibullah also agreed with the Verma Committee's recommendation to not give death penalty to rapists. He said in his recommendations to the Committee on January 5, he had opposed the death penalty for rapists.

"I am against the death penalty. There is opposition to it in several democratic countries across the world. When I had placed my suggestion (about no death penalty for rapists) in front of the committee, several people had questioned it," he said.

Habibullah, who is about to complete two years as the chairman of the minorities commission, said he would ensure the safety of all officials of the commission.

Commenting on the incidents of communal violence in the last few months, he said, "A draft law against communal violence is ready in which I had given suggestions. The law to prevent riots should be strong."

More from Sify: