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‘Disturbed areas’ tag under AFSPA

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Internal Security


Source: TOI, TOI


Context: The Centre has decided to decrease the jurisdiction of “disturbed areas” declared under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur from April 1st.

About AFSPADescription
DefinitionAreas declared as “disturbed’’ under Section 3 of AFSPA due to a “dangerous” or “disturbed” situation.
What are “Disturbed areas”?When a part or whole state/UT is in such a condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
Who can declare a “disturbed area”?It can be declared by the Governor of state or administrator of Union Territory or by the Central government.
PurposeIt grants special powers to armed forces to maintain public order in “disturbed areas.
PowersArmed forces can use force, arrest without a warrant, search without a warrant, and shoot to kill
AFSPA completely withdrawn inMeghalaya (2018), Tripura (2015) and Mizoram (1980s)
AFSPA in effectNagaland (8 out of 9 districts), Assam (8 districts), Manipur (except a few areas), the whole of Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Arunachal Pradesh


Need for AFSPA in North-eastProtection of members of armed forces; To handle involvement of proxy groups; dissuade advancement of terrorist activities; To handle insurgency and militancy-affected areas


Issues with the use of AFSPA

Violation of human rights·        It has been dubbed as a ‘license to kill’;

·        Justice Verma committee (on offences against women in conflict areas) said “AFSPA legitimizes impunity for sexual violence”;

·        Justice Santosh Hegde Committee described it as a “symbol of oppression”.

Cases of fake encountersFor instance, the Extrajudicial Execution Victim Families Association of Manipur filed a case in the Supreme Court alleging 1,528 fake encounters between 1979 and 2012.
Opposition by the state governmentStates like Nagaland, Tripura, and Manipur have constantly opposed its imposition.
Poor checks and balanceThe Act gives powers to security forces to open fire but only after a prior warning is given to the suspect. There is a lack of accountability.
Poor investigationIn Manipur, with the Supreme Court taking up the extra-judicial killings, the CBI has investigated only 39 cases (94 killings).
Fuels the cycle of violencePeople’s disillusionment with the democratic setup is exploited by secessionists and terror sympathizers, leading to more violence and counter-violence


Reforms Needed in AFSPA

Proposed Measures
Ensure compliance with human rights while maintaining operational effectiveness
Ensure provisions for robust safeguards within the parameters of the law
Thorough inquiry for every death caused by armed forces
No absolute immunity for Army personnel who commits a crime
Clearly define terms like “disturbed”, “dangerous”, and “land forces” to ensure greater clarity
Set up committees at the district level with representatives of the army, administrators, and the public to report, assess and track complaints in that area
Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee Recommendations:  Repeal AFSPA and insert appropriate provisions in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
2nd ARC: It recommended the repeal of AFSPA



With the improvement in the situation in the Northeast, AFSPA should be gradually removed. To reduce the possibility of its misuse, AFSPA should be made more comprehensive, with elaborate rules concerning the method of investigations of alleged human rights violations


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The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is an anachronistic law and its repeal can strengthen the foundation of our democracy. Critically examine. (15M)