Centre Extends AFSPA in Nagaland

The entire State of Nagaland has been declared ‘disturbed area’ for six more months up to June 2019, under Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) 1958.

  • In a notification, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the Central government is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole of State of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civilian power is necessary.
  • The decision has been taken as killings, loot and extortion have been going on in various parts of the State which necessitated the action.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958

  • The Act was enacted in 1958 to bring under control what the government considered ‘disturbed areas’.
  • Jammu & Kashmir has a similar but separate act Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990.
  • It is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Centre revoked it in Meghalaya on April 1, 2018.
  • The Act empowers the Governor/Administrator of state/UT to declare an area as ‘disturbed’. Once declared, the region has to maintain the status quo for a minimum of three months (according to Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976).
  • As per the Act, it can be invoked in places where the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
  • The AFSPA gives power to the Army and Central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to search premises and arrest without warrant, to use force even to the extent of causing death.
  • It also gives immunity to security forces in carrying out various operations and provides cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without the Centre’s sanction.
  • To check arbitrariness there should be a periodic review of ‘disturbed area’ every six months.

Debate Around AFSPA

  • AFSPA has become a controversial act due to the wide-ranging power it gives to armed forces and alleged human rights violation under the act.
  • There were questions about the constitutionality of AFSPA, given that law and order is a state subject.
  • Supreme Court’s Judgement: The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of AFSPA in a 1998 judgment (Naga People's Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India).
    • In this judgment, the Supreme Court held that
      • a suo-motu declaration can be made by the Central government, however, it is desirable that the state government should be consulted by the central government before making the declaration;
      • the declaration has to be for a limited duration and there should be a periodic review of the declaration 6 months have expired;
      • while exercising the powers conferred upon him by AFSPA, the authorized officer should use minimal force necessary for effective action,
  • Jeevan Reddy Committee: In November 2004, the Central government appointed a five-member committee headed by Justice B P Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of the act in the northeastern states.
    • The committee recommended that:
      • AFSPA should be repealed and appropriate provisions should be inserted in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
      • The Unlawful Activities Act should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and paramilitary forces and
      • Grievance cells should be set up in each district where the armed forces are deployed.
  • Second ARC Recommendation: The 5th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) on public order has also recommended the repeal of the AFSPA. However, These recommendations have not been implemented.