The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 or AFSPA legislation, which has inspired dissent and countless discussions, has been extended in Nagaland for another six months.
The decision to extend AFSPA in Nagaland comes amid calls from the Northeastern state to withdraw it after the alleged botched security operation near Oting Village in Nagaland's Mon district that left 14 civilians and one jawan dead on 4 December.
Take a look at what’s the legislation and why it has become such a bone of contention.
What is AFSPA?
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 provides certain special powers to a member of the Armed Forces in areas in the Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The powers were also extended to forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir as well.
Interestingly, the law was first introduced by the British to suppress the Quit India movement in 1942.
What powers does it confer to authorities?
AFSPA confers special powers on the armed forces in areas deemed “disturbed”. In a 'disturbed area' a military officer can fire upon an unlawful assembly of five or more people if the need arises or even for illegal possession of fire arms.
Moreover, according to the law, no arrest and search warrants are required for any operation.
It also provides protection to persons acting under Act, which means 'No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding 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'.
Calls for repeal after incident
Following the incident in Mon, calls to repeal the legislation grew loud once again. In addition to the locals and human rights activists, chief ministers of Nagaland and Meghalaya also called for its withdrawal.
Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio joined the clamour and said that AFSPA has blackened the image of India and should be removed.
“We are Indians and India is the biggest democratic country in the world. AFSPA is a draconian law and should be removed from our country. Many laws can be handled. But this law has blackened the image of our country. This is my opinion,” Neiphiu Rio said.
Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma had also said: "We have opposed AFSPA for long. It is counterproductive and despite being operational for a long time, it has not resulted in solving the problem. We urge the Government of India to repeal AFSPA."
Panel called for review
The decision to extend the legislation in Nagaland comes as it was announced that the Centre had decided to constitute a five-member committee to look into the withdrawal of the law.
The committee has been set and will be headed by the Ministry of Home Affairs additional secretary (Northeast), and will include the chief secretary and director general of police of Nagaland, besides inspector general of Assam Rifles (North) and a representative of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The panel is supposed to submit its recommendations within 45 days, based on which the decision on whether to continue designating Nagaland as a “disturbed area” or withdrawing AFSPA from the state will be taken.
With inputs from agencies