The partial rollback of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act

Contact Counsellor

The partial rollback of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act

  • MHA announced the reduction of “disturbed areas” under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
  • The decision was based on the recommendations of a committee to study the possibility of withdrawing the AFSPA from areas in Nagaland.

How did the AFSPA come about?

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  • The British colonial government on August 15, 1942, promulgated the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance to suppress the Quit India movement.
  • The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958, followed the Assam Disturbed Areas Act of 1955 to deal with the uprising in the Naga Hills and adjoining areas.
  • The Act was replaced by the AFSPA for wider application. A similar Act specific to Jammu and Kashmir was enacted in 1990.

How is the AFSPA imposed?

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  • Section 3 of the AFSPA empowers the Governor of a State and the administrator of a UT to declare an area “disturbed” and issue an official notification to give the Centre, authority to deploy the “armed forces in aid of the civil power”.
  • Criteria: A government considers an area “disturbed” if it perceives a threat to “public peace and tranquillity, by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”
  • The Act gives unbridled power to the armed forces and CAPF deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of the law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and protection from prosecution and legal suits without the Central government’s sanction.
  • The situation is reviewed periodically for extension of the AFSPA.
  • Once declared “disturbed”, a region has to maintain the status quo for a minimum of three months according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.

How is the AFSPA viewed?

The AFSPA has often been under the scanner for giving the armed forces personnel the “license to kill”. It is viewed as a tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination while the United Nations has often pointed out it has no place in Indian democracy.

What triggered the recent decision?

The current government is claiming to have tamed extremism in the Northeast, with a series of peace deals, including the Framework Agreement with the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland. This might have made AFSPA redundant.

  • But this decision came in the wake of revival of the anti-AFSPA demand across the Northeast following the killing of 13 people in Nagaland, last December.
  • In Assam, the AFSPA has been removed completely from 23 districts and partially from the Cachar district.
  • The Act has been revoked from 15 police station areas in six districts of Manipur but continues in 82 police stations in 16 districts.
  • In Nagaland, it has been removed from areas under 15 police stations in seven districts but remains active in areas under 57 police stations in 13 districts.

Exam track

Prelims take away

  • Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act
  • Quit India Movement

Mains track

Q. What is Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)? Critically comment on its implications and provide a way forward.