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'Scrap special powers law in NE, Kashmir'

A reforms panel asks the PM to repeal the Armed Forces Act, reports Aloke Tikku.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2007 03:12 IST
Aloke Tikku
Aloke Tikku
Hindustan Times

The Centre should have powers to unilaterally deploy central forces to control major threats to public order, like the situation preceding the Babri Masjid demolition, if the state government “fails” to act on central directives, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission recommended on Monday.

The panel also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that gives extraordinary powers to armed forces operating in disturbed areas of the Northeast, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Civil-rights activists have long complained that this act allows security forces to trample on the rights of civilians in disturbed areas. The forces have argued they need this legal protection to discharge their duties in tinderbox situations.

The Veerappa Moily-chaired commission has recommended a middle path — repeal the law, but incorporate into existing laws the provisions sought by the army as well as safeguards for citizens.

On the power to deploy central forces in states, Moily rejected the charge that such moves would weaken the federal system. Once the Centre issues a constitutionally mandated directive to the state government, the next explicit step the Constitution allows is the imposition of President rule. The commission believes the gap between these two steps can be filled by a central law, empowering the Centre to not only deploy forces in the state but also control them.

Moily handed over these recommendations along with dozens of others in a 342-page report to the prime minister on Monday.

The committee — constituted in 2005 — also pushed for recognition of federal offences that can straightaway be investigated by bodies like the CBI and making confessions before a police officer admissible as evidence. But the panel insisted that it did not want its recommendations to be implemented in isolation.

“I made it clear to the prime minister that the approach has to be holistic… if more powers are being given, there will have to be more accountability as well,” Moily said.

Singh had last year tasked a group of ministers to monitor implementations of the panel recommendations.

First Published: Jun 26, 2007 01:34 IST