Extension of AFSPA in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh

  • 27 Sep 2023

Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in parts of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh for six more months, granting extensive powers to armed forces and Central Armed Police Forces in "disturbed areas."

Key Points

  • AFSPA Extension: The MHA has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in parts of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh for an additional six months, starting from October 1.
  • Powers Granted: The AFSPA provides armed forces and Central Armed Police Forces deployed in "disturbed areas" with the authority to take actions such as killing individuals violating the law, making arrests, conducting searches without a warrant, and offering protection from prosecution and legal suits without requiring Central government sanction.
  • Districts Covered in Nagaland: The AFSPA extension applies to eight districts in Nagaland, including Dimapur, Niuland, Chumoukedima, Mon, Kiphire, Noklak, Phek, and Peren. It also covers specific areas within 21 police stations in five other districts.
  • Arunachal Pradesh Inclusion: In Arunachal Pradesh, the districts of Tirap, Changlang, and Longding, as well as specific areas under Namsai, Mahadevpur, and Chowkham police stations in Namsai district near the Assam border, have been declared as "disturbed areas" under the AFSPA for six months from October 1.
  • Earlier Order: This notification extends a previous order issued in March, continuing the pplication of AFSPA in these regions.
  • AFSPA in Nagaland: The AFSPA had been in effect throughout Nagaland since 1995. The MHA, as well as state governments, have the authority to issue notifications related to the AFSPA.

Introduction to AFSPA

  • AFSPA grants armed forces special powers to maintain public order in "disturbed areas."
  • It bestows specific authorities and privileges upon the armed forces to carry out their duties effectively.

Powers Granted to Armed Forces

Prohibition of Gatherings

  • Armed forces can prohibit gatherings of five or more persons in an area.
  • They may use force or open fire after issuing a warning if individuals are believed to contravene the law.

Arrest and Search Powers

  • In cases of reasonable suspicion, the army can arrest individuals without a warrant.
  • They have the authority to enter or search premises without a warrant.
  • Banning the possession of firearms is also within their jurisdiction.

Handling Arrested Persons

  • Individuals arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances leading to the arrest.

Declaration of "Disturbed Area" and Authoritative Entities

  • A "disturbed area" is designated through a notification under Section 3 of AFSPA.
  • Disturbances can result from differences or disputes between religious, racial, linguistic, regional, or caste-based groups or communities.
  • The power to declare an area as disturbed lies with the Central Government, the State Governor, or the Union Territory administrator.

Controversies Surrounding AFSPA

  • Human Rights Violations: AFSPA empowers security personnel, including non-commissioned officers, to use force, including deadly force, for the maintenance of public order.
  • It allows soldiers to enter premises, search, and make arrests without warrants.
  • This has led to allegations of fake encounters and human rights violations in disturbed areas, raising concerns.
  • Jeevan Reddy Committee Recommendations: A committee headed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy recommended the repeal of AFSPA and suggested incorporating relevant provisions into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
  • It also proposed specifying the powers of armed and paramilitary forces and establishing grievance cells in deployed areas.
  • Second ARC Recommendation:The Second Administrative Reforms Commission's 5th report on public order also recommended the repeal of AFSPA, but these recommendations remain unimplemented.

Supreme Court's Views on AFSPA

  • The Supreme Court, in a 1998 judgment (Naga People's Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India), upheld the constitutionality of AFSPA.
  • The judgment outlined that the central government can make a suo-motu declaration but should ideally consult the state government.
  • Declarations should be for a limited duration and subject to periodic review every six months.
  • Authorized officers must use minimal force necessary for effective action when exercising AFSPA powers.