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By – Nishtha Trivedi

AFSPA stands for ARMED FORCES SPECIAL POWERS ACT. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 is one of the oldest and most arbitrary legislation. Its origin is from the British colonial ordinance. AFSPA has been described as a “draconian law” which encourages the Indian army for carrying out the violation of human rights with license Indian Parliament has passed in its 45 years of Parliamentary history.

The question mainly arises is that “Is AFSPA a national necessity or violation of the human rights?”.In failing to protect and uphold human rights, the Act reinforces a militarized approach to security which has proved to be not only inefficient but, in fact, counterproductive in tackling security challenges. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act provides a special power to the Indian army in the disturbed areas of country and validate any action deemed fit. However, this act is being misapprehend by many citizens.They think that Indian army is allowed to commit ‘atrocities’ against the citizens of India but it is not true. Which lead to protest. The act states that Indian army has a power to maintain public order in the disturbed areas.Armed Forces Special Powers Act grants the military with the wide powers to arrest, right to shoot to kill, and to occupy or to destroy property in the disturbed areas of a country. This special power has to be used with extreme care and caution.

This act was applied firstly to the north eastern states i.e. Assam and Manipur and then was amended in 1972 and extended to all the seven states in the north eastern of India i.e., Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland known as “seven sisters”. Over the years, there have been several protests against the AFSPA, most of them in north-eastern part of the country (i.e. Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Manipur also extended even to Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland).

The AFSPA came in the lime light of media when a Manipur activists Irom Sharmila went on the fast for 11 long years demanding to repeal the laws. In 2004 many civil society groups in Manipur initiate an intense agitation after the death of a civilian. In 2005, the union home minister visited Manipur and instituted a commission which asked government to modify or repeal the AFSPA on seven sisters, followed by it in 2011 the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir also asked to AFSPA to be repealed from the state.

Moving on in march 2020, the UN and other organizations, (both international and national) came into the picture asking to repeal the AFSPA from the north-eastern parts of India. This act can be enforced during exceptional situations in country or in the disturbed areas of India. In such areas of situation Indian army is been resort to quell the potential violence and actual violence.

Indian constitution states that armed forces cannot be deployed against Indian citizens unless a local or the central government tells to intervene the situation as and when it becomes difficult for the government or local police to handle. The central or local government gives powers to army in such hard situation would obviously be unacceptable in any democracy as it leads to the violation to human rights. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act enables harsh powers, but as we all know tough situation requires tough measures. The army is called at scene when the violence crosses its limits and local police is unable to handle the problem. These armed forces are trained to be aggressive, to fire for effects, to be lethal which leads to the success which police are not trained for and fails to control the situation.

This act violates the fundamental right and human rights of the citizens for example: Under section 4 of Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 states that armed officers can shoot to kill in the case of commission or suspicion of commission of offences to its contrary Article 21 of Indian constitution is challenged that is right to life and personal liberty similarly many fundamental rights and human rights are being challenged in this act. Similarly, it contradicts Article 14 (equality before law), Article 32(1) (right to file suit) and Article 22 (protection against arrest and detention.) of Indian Constitution.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act does not only violate those fundamental rights and human rights but it also has a countless incident regarding detention, torture, looting, arbitrary acts in North Eastern states and even rape by on duty armed personnel which is also a huge matter of concern.The legislation as always been defended and supported by the Indian Government itself by contending that it is to prevent the North Eastern states from terrorism and from seceding away from the Union of India.

Over the period of time and after a strong protest and movement against the act substantial efforts have been made to ensure more accountability and responsibility while the conduct of armed forces while operating under the provisions of AFSPA. In the judgment of Naga people’s Movement Against Human Rights etc. vs Union of India case, annexure I the Do’s and Don’ts formulated by the army as guidelines for operations were upheld by the Supreme court. Thereby ensuring affixation to procedural guidelines by the Armed Forces. In the words of supreme court "It does not matter whether the victim was a common person or a militant or a terrorist, nor does it matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the state. The law is the same for both and is equally applicable to both. This is the requirement of a democracy and the requirement of preservation of the rule of law and the preservation of individual liberties."

The government has been concerted attempt to ensure that inconvenience to the people is being minimized and human rights are an operative factor at every level after noticing the number of complains are being increasing day by day. This resulted in a significant drop in the complaints related to human rights violations. However, the perceptions based on past cases of human rights violations and alleged incompatibility of the la with human rights, has led to demands for its revocation.

On concluding this, the states have its own limitation and is justified in taking appropriate measures to overcome the terrorism in order to protect the civilians and citizens of the country, to maintain laws and orders and provide justice to the victims of any such offences. There should be a reasonable and humane manner to sever the justice, snatching the human rights of one in order to serve justice is not done at all. The legations like AFSPA should be reviewed if necessary and repealed if it’s not necessary as it failed to achieve the most basic objective of it and rather than achieving the objective armed personnel just misuse the powers for their own benefits which is not a good sign for justice, for this Manipur is the best example.

According to the chief minister 8000 innocent villagers and around 12000 members of armed forces of opposition have lost their lives. The groups of armed forces are being increased over the period of time from 4 in 1980 to 20 in 2014 which will cause more threat to people regarding their lives, dignity, prestige etc. This type incidents and faults clearly indicates that Armed Forces Special Powers Act is actually a big failure and violates fundamental rights and human rights. But even after this harsh truth the government still believes that North and North Eastern parts of India can only be controlled by Armed Forces Special Powers Act. If it is so then government should definitely take some proper measures and should make some or the other changes to give the relief to the sufferers.

As the government cannot repeal the act as it is also necessary for the lives of the citizens to save it from insurgents If this Armed Forces Special Powers Act would not be there, we could have lost Jammu & Kashmir with may be many more states which would not be good. The reforms can be that all the Armed forces should be trained under the UN Code of Conduct for law enforcement personnel. All the Armed personnel should have to respect the human dignity and give the highest importance to the fundamental and human rights of al the citizens of India. A proper training should b given to them which should be informed to public as well so that they know about the way they have to act and also to maintain the transparency related to public accountability and issues of fundamental and human rights.

These few changes would give relief to the sufferers and would mostly help to the innocent local villagers of the disturbed areas (i.e. north eastern parts of India) who are stuck between insurgents and military troops. Now it is high time and also people are getting aware about their rights and duties. They know the importance of their own life and their loved and dear one’s.

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