The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of Public Order”, and to do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution.
A Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkarand DY Chandrachud was hearing a petition filed by the father of Major Aditya Kumar, challenging initiation of criminal proceedings against his son for the death of stone pelters, in what came to be known as Shopian firing incident.
The Shopian shooting
On January 27, residents of Shopian’s Ganowpora village clashed with personnel of the Indian Army after the Army sought the removal of flags associated with the Islamic State from the house of a slain militant.
The Army claimed it had opened fire in self-defence that killed two civilians. A third man later died of his injuries in hospital.
FIR filed by Police against Army Officer
An FIR filed by the police in January mentioned a Major Aditya Kumar as being head of the unit that opened fire on civilians. The FIR was initially registered under sections dealing with murder, attempt to murder and acts endangering life.
Kumar’s father, Karamveer Singh, moved the Supreme Court against the FIR, invoking the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act.
Here Are Some Important Things To Know About Controversial Legislation Afspa
No criminal proceedings can be initiated against Army as per Section 7 of AFSPA
The Central government had told the Supreme Court that as per Section 7 of AFSPA, no criminal proceedings can be initiated against Army personnel in J&K without the prior sanction of the Central government.
Section 7 of JKAFSPA says “No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.”
What’s the origin of AFSPA?
The Act came into force in the context of increasing violence in the Northeastern States decades ago, which the State governments found difficult to control. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and it was approved by the President on September 11, 1958. It became known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
Which states are under Afspa?
It is in force in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur (except the Imphal municipal area). In Arunachal Pradesh, only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts plus a 20-km belt bordering Assam come under its purview. AFSPA has been removed from Meghalaya completely.
Tripura withdrew the AFSPA in 2015. Jammu and Kashmir too has a similar Act
What are ‘disturbed’ areas?
The state or central government considers those areas as ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”
Who has the power to declare areas as ‘disturbed’?
The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area. A suitable notification would have to be made in the Official Gazette. As per Section 3 , it can be invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.
What do detractors say?
Manipur’s Irom Sharmila has been one if its staunchest opponents, going on a hunger strike in November 2000 and continuing her vigil till August 2016. Her trigger was an incident in the town of Malom in Manipur, where ten people were killed waiting at a bus stop.
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