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Q. End of impunity under AFSPA: In the backdrop of recent Supreme Court ruling that the armed forces cannot escape investigation for excesses, comment on the issue.
Jul 11, 2016 Related to : GS Paper- 2 and 3

Ans :

Issue-

Recently The Supreme Court ruled that armed forces cannot use excessive force even in areas that come under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and ruled that over 1,500 cases of encounters in Manipur over the last 20 years must be investigated. With this judgement Supreme Court ends impunity for armed forces granted under AFSPA.

AFSPA-

AFSPA was enacted in 1958 through act of Parliament, which gives special power like shoot, search houses etc. to the armed forces in areas declared as disturbed areas by the home ministry. Security forces can arrest a person without warrant, who has committed or even about to commit a cognizable offence even on reasonable suspicion. It also protects them from legal processes for actions taken under the act.

Reasons behind recent judgement-

  • Hundreds of families in the north-eastern State of Manipur pleaded in front of Supreme Court for a probe by a Special Investigation Team into 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters involving the Army and the police.
  • In its order court ruled that if armed force kills a person on the mere allegation or suspicion that they are enemy, it violated the concept of rule of law and endangers to Indian democracy.
  • Court also said that There is no concept of absolute immunity from trial and use of excessive force was not permissible even in areas declared disturbed under AFSPA. Every case of death by encounter, whether of a dreaded criminal, or militant or terrorist or insurgent, must be independently probed.

Impact-

  • With this ruling some armed personnel may face criminal charges notwithstanding the immunity conferred under AFSPA for anything done in lawful exercise of official duties.
  • The ruling come as a relief for the conflict-ridden north-eastern state, where the demand to repeal AFSPA, has been a long standing one since 1958.
  • The ruling also causes demoralising impact on the security forces in disturbed areas due to fear of criminal charges.

Conclusion-

In democratic country always accountability is a facet of the rule of law and armed forces may not be out of it. Present ruling may bring the relief for people staying in disturbed areas, but it also demoralise the personnel of armed force. Hence both court and armed forces including government should adopt middle path in such sensitive issues. Armed forces require special powers in disturbed areas, but similarly it should be made more accountable to uphold rule of law.


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