Army rejects reducing area under special powers act

A move to tone down the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) — that gives the armed forces power to shoot-to-kill in disturbed areas of Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast — has run into a roadblock.

The army has objected to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ proposal to significantly reduce the area in the two states that would be notified as a disturbed area under this law, restrict invoking the special powers to limited cases and curtail the powers of the armed forces to kill.

First enacted in 1958 as short-term measure to shield the armed forces to crush militancy, AFSPA gives the armed forces the right to arrest without a warrant, shoot-to-kill, and destroy property in areas notified “disturbed”.

The special powers kick in once an area is declared as “disturbed”. 

A senior government official said opposition from South Block — that houses the defence ministry — came on the ground that the disturbed areas tag could not be withdrawn from areas that have been peaceful in the recent past.

“The army has conveyed that you cannot have islands of peace where a different set of rules – which do not shield the armed forces – apply since terrorists, and terrorism, is not confined to geographical boundaries of districts or subdivisions,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

Home Minister P Chidambaram had announced earlier this month that the home ministry had firmed up its proposals to amend AFSPA and was awaiting responses from other agencies concerned.

Justice BP Jeevan Reddy Committee — appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — had recommended scrapping this law.


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