Governor of Assam has extended application of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in the entire state for six more months with immediate effect. For this, it used powers conferred under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 declaring entire state as ‘Disturbed Area’ upto 6 months or unless withdrawn earlier.
Reason for extension
This decision was taken as precautionary measure to maintain law and order during ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process during the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process. The final draft NRC is likely to be published by end of 2018. In September 2017, Union Home Ministry had delegated to Assam and Manipur Governors power to impose or withdraw AFSPA.
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)
AFSPA was enacted in 1958 to bring ‘disturbed’ areas declared under it under control. It empowers both state and central government to declare areas as ‘disturbed’ due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
Declaration of Disturbed area: The section (3) of the Act empowers governor of State/UT to issue an official notification in Gazette of India, following which Centre has authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid. Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months.
Special powers to armed forces: The Act gives special powers to army and state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property used by insurgents in disturbed areas. It also provides army personnel with safeguards against malicious, vindictive and frivolous prosecution.
Note: At present, the AFSA has been enforced in 6 states viz. Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh (only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts plus 20-km belt bordering Assam), Manipur (except Imphal municipal area), Meghalaya (confined to 20-km belt bordering Assam) and Jammu and Kashmir.