- The Army clearly sees AFSPA as a capstone enabling Act that gives it the powers necessary to conduct counter-insurgency operations efficiently.
- If AFSPA is repealed or diluted, it is the army leadership’s considered view that the performance of battalions in counter-insurgency operations will be adversely affected and the terrorists or insurgents will seize the initiative.
- Many argue that removal of the act will lead to demoralising the armed forces and see militants motivating locals to file lawsuits against the army.
- Also, the forces are aware that they cannot afford to fail when called upon to safeguard the country’s integrity. Hence, they require the minimum legislation that is essential to ensure efficient utilization of combat capability. This includes safeguards from legal harassment and empowerment of its officers to decide on employment of the minimum force that they consider essential.
- The absence of such a legal statute would adversely affect organizational flexibility and the utilization of the security capacity of the state. This would render the security forces incapable of fulfilling their assigned role.
- AFSPA is necessary to maintain law and order in disturbed areas, otherwise things will go haywire. The law also dissuades advancement of terrorist activities in these areas.
- Also, extraordinary situations require special handling. As the army does not have any police powers under the Constitution, it is in the national interest to give it special powers for operational purposes when it is called upon to undertake counter-insurgency operations in disturbed areas.
Protective measures provided
- Section 5 of the Act already mandates that arrested civilians must be handed over to the nearest police station ‘with the least possible delay’ along with a report of ‘circumstances occasioning the arrest.’
- Army HQ has also laid down that all suspects who are arrested will be handed over to civilian authorities within 24 hours.
- Regarding firing on civilians, the army’s instructions are that fire may be opened in towns and villages only in self-defence and that too when the source of terrorist or militant fire can be clearly identified.
- Security forces should be very careful while operating in the Northeast and must not give any chance to the militants to exploit the situation.
- Indiscriminate arrests and harassment of people out of frustration for not being able to locate the real culprits should be avoided. All good actions of the force get nullified with one wrong action.
- Any person, including the supervisory staff, found guilty of violating law should be severely dealt with.
- The law is not defective, but it is its implementation that has to be managed properly.
- The local people have to be convinced with proper planning and strategy.
- The practical problems encountered in ensuring transparency in counter-insurgency operations must be overcome by innovative measures. The army must be completely transparent in investigating allegations of violations of human rights and bringing the violators to speedy justice. Exemplary punishment must be meted out where the charges are proved.