Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: AFSPA

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The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act

  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has come in for widespread criticism in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and other parts of the northeast because of the human rights abuses that have come to be associated with its operation.
  • The Act suffers from two infirmities: The requirement of prior sanction for prosecution contained in Section 6 often comes in the way when questions arise about the lawfulness of particular actions. Second, AFSPA does not distinguish between a peaceful gathering of five or more persons (even if held in contravention of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code) and a violent mob.
  • Section 6 says no prosecution shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.
  • In a democracy, this requirement of previous sanction should have no place.
  • It is important to recognise that AFSPA does not give an officer the unqualified right to fire upon and cause the death of any person in a Disturbed Area. At a minimum, that person should have been carrying weapons or explosives. The shooting of an unarmed individual, and the killing of a person in custody, are not acts that are permissible under AFSPA.
  • Whenever those killed have been armed insurgents or terrorists, there has been little or no public clamour against the Act. It is only when the armed forces violate the provisions of the law and indulge in the unlawful killing of persons especially unarmed civilians that voices get raised against AFSPA.
  • Regardless of what specific statutes may authorise, the use of force in both international and municipal law is considered reasonable only when it satisfies the twin tests of necessity and proportionality.
  • Now, in the wake of the resurgence of mass protest in the Kashmir valley, the central government has once again started making vague promises about amending AFSPA. The time to make these changes is now.
  • Section 4 should be amended to explicitly incorporate the principles of necessity and proportionality and Section 6 must be changed to allow for the prosecution of illegal acts in all cases except where the government is able to convince the courts otherwise.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India