Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

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Armed Forces Special Powers Act: Some facts; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Jan 15 2016

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Area of applicability

2017: `disturbed area' in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh reduced

Naresh Mitra, AFSPA zone reduced in 2 NE states, October 3, 2017: The Times of India

 The Union home ministry has brought down the range of `disturbed area' under the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) 1958 in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh following improvement in the law and order situation.

A notification issued by the ministry on Sunday said areas under the `disturbed area' tag in Meghalaya along the border with Assam has been reduced to 10 km from the previous 20 km under Section 3 of AFSPA up to March 31, 2018. The notification came into effect from Sunday.

On August 4 this year, the ministry declared the areas falling within the 20 km wide belt in Meghalaya on the Assam border as `disturbed area'. In Arunachal, the notification said areas under the jurisdiction of 11 police stations in eight districts bordering Assam have been declared to be “disturbed area“ up to March 31, 2018.

AFSPA removed from Meghalaya, restricted in AP

April 23, 2018: The Times of India

Insurgency in the north-east India, 2000-17;
AFSPA withdrawl- Meghalya, Arunachal Pradesh. Whole of Assam and Nagaland as well as entire Manipur
From: Bharti Jain, April 24, 2018: The Times of India


AFSPA was totally withdrawn from all areas of Meghalaya from April 1

In Arunachal, it is down from 16 police stations to eight

The Act was withdrawn from Tripura in 2015

The Union Home Ministry has removed Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya and reduced it to eight police stations in Arunachal Pradesh, an official said.

"AFSPA was totally withdrawn from all areas of Meghalaya from April 1. In Arunachal, it is down from 16 police stations to eight," the official said.

The Act has however been extended by another six months in three eastern districts of Arunachal Pradesh -- Tirap, Longding and Changlang -- which border Myanmar and specific areas under eight police stations of seven other districts bordering Assam. The three districts have been under the AFSPA since January 2016.

The Act was withdrawn from Tripura in 2015 and in past one year, fewer areas in northeast are under the Act, the official said, adding that the Act was only in place in Meghalaya for a 20-km area along the Assam border and not in operation in Mizoram.

In Assam, 63 NDFB(S) cadres killed and 1052 cadres/linkmen were arrested between December 2014 and March 2018.

Compared to 2016 there has been a 37 percent fall in insurgency incidents in NE region; 30 percent reduction in forces killed; and 23 percent fall in civilians killed.

Between 2014 and 2018, there has been a 63 percent decline in insurgency incidents in NE; 83% fall in civilian deaths; and 40 percent fall in security personnel killings.

Between peak of insurgency in 1997 and 2017, insurgency incidents in NE region has come down by 85 percent and fatal casualties among civilian and security forces have come down by 96 percent, the Home Ministry said.

AFSPA gives powers to the Army and central forces deployed in "disturbed areas" to kill anyone acting in contravention of law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without the Central government's sanction.

It is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven Assembly constituencies of Imphal). The state governments of Assam and Manipur now have the powers to keep or revoke the Act.

2019, Assam: process of withdrawal of AFSPA begins

Prabin Kalita, May 17, 2019: The Times of India

Twenty nine years after its imposition, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is set to be withdrawn from Assam in August, and the Centre has already asked the Army to plan its return from the state.

It was on November 27, 1990 — when Ulfa militancy was at its peak — that the entire state was declared a “disturbed area” and AFPSA, which grants special powers to the armed forces while conducting counter-insurgency operations, was imposed. Over the years, the Army has gradually withdrawn from several districts as the situation improved. Police and paramilitary forces have taken the Army’s place.

Last September, the Centre had delegated to Assam the power to extend or withdraw AFSPA. The state government has twice extended the Act, citing the upcoming publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC). “The NRC process will be through by July 30 (as directed by Supreme Court). We have been informally asked to plan where the operational units will head to after moving out of the state,” a security source said.

2022: several areas of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland removed from AFSPA purview

Bharti Jain, April 4, 2022: The Times of India

2022 April: several areas of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland were removed from the purview of AFSPA
From: Bharti Jain, April 4, 2022: The Times of India

New Delhi: In a landmark decision, the Centre decided to remove several areas of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland from the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, often blamed for excesses in the northeast due to the unfettered powers of search and arrest as well as immunity from criminal prosecution it gives to the armed forces. 
Union home minister Amit Shah, who approved the “historic” measure in consultation with the three chief ministers, attributed the decision to “the improved security situation and fast-tracked development due to consistent efforts, and several agreements to end in- surgency and bring lasting peace in northeast by the Modi government”.


Kangkan Kalita, Oct 2, 2023: The Times of India

GUWAHATI: The controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, (Afspa), which was enforced in eight districts of Assam, has been lifted from four districts and extended in the other four - Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar and Charaideo - for another six more months from October 1 (Sunday).

The four districts from where the act has been lifted are - Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.

Assam has 35 districts and except for the four, Afspa has been revoked from the remaining district.The Assam cabinet had recently recommended the complete withdrawal of Afspa from the state but as the four districts are still witnessing militant activities of the outlawed Ulfa over the decades, they will continue to have the "disturbed areas" status, resulting in the enforcement of Afspa.

"As per the new notification that came in force from today, Afspa will be in force only in four districts of Assam - Charaideo, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. From the rest of Assam, the Disturbed Area Act and Afspa have been withdrawn," Assam DGP GP Singh said.

While the "disturbed areas" notification was in force since 1990 in the whole of Assam, it was removed with effect from April 1 last year, except in nine districts and one sub-subdivision of another district. Later, from April 1 this year, it was further reduced to eight districts and was in effect till Saturday (September 30) for a period of six months.

The eight districts of Assam where Afspa had been in force for the last six months borders Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. The act empowers security forces to carry out operations anywhere in the areas where it is on duty, arrest anyone in these areas without a prior warrant and shoot with impunity.

Thus, human rights groups have been terming the act as draconian and demanding its withdrawal from Assam and the Northeast. Singh said as Assam is going through a peaceful stage after witnessing a volatile past during the last three to four decades, the act has been withdrawn from most of the districts. He gave credit for the peaceful environment to the concerted efforts of state police, Army and CAPF for the last 30 to 40 years. “Today, peace prevails in Assam.

It’s good news that as of today, except for four districts Afspa has been removed from the whole of Assam. The Disturbed Areas Act has been removed outside of these four districts too,” he asserted. Singh lauded the efforts of constables and jawans for taking the state police force to newer heights

‘Dilution’ of AFSPA, ordered by SC

Reported reaction among Army personnel

Dhananjay Mahapatra, 300 Armymen may move SC against AFSPA ‘dilution’, August 14, 2018: The Times of India

In an unprecedented step, more than 300 Army men deployed in disturbed areas of the country are likely to move the Supreme Court on Tuesday, protesting against the apex court’s direction to the CBI to register FIRs against some armed forces personnel for allegedly being involved in old encounter cases in Manipur, which they allege took away the ‘AFSPA shield’ that protected them for action during anti-insurgency operations.

A bench, headed by Justice Madan Lokur, had recently slammed the CBI director for delay in filing of FIRs against Manipur police commandos and armed forces personnel who were allegedly involved in what a PIL alleged as ‘extra-judicial killings’ during operations in the last two decades. The SC had asked the CBI director as to why it had not arrested the accused despite the allegations of killings. The CBI director had told the court that after the agency filed its chargesheets, it was for the trial court concerned to decide whether to grant the accused bail or send them to judicial custody.

However, the armed forces personnel, who under Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) enjoy virtual immunity from prosecution by police for alleged ‘excesses’ committed during operational exigencies, felt that anti-insurgency operations were vital to protect national integrity and that while doing so, they do not know when there would be a lethal burst of fire that could jeopardise their own lives.

The petition, likely to be filed on Tuesday and mentioned for early hearing by advocate Aishwarya Bhati before CJI Dipak Misra, says the AFSPA immunity was vital for the soldiers to undertake operations against insurgents, who are armed with sophisticated weapons and slip into neighbouring countries to frustrate hot pursuit.

The Manipur Police too is planning to move a petition before the SC to question the efficacy of the SC’s decision to ask the CBI to register FIRs against police commandos who too faced FIRs similar to the armed forces personnel for alleged extra-judicial killings.

‘Don’t dilute AFSPA shield’: Armymen ask SC/ 2018=

Dhananjay Mahapatra, August 15, 2018: The Times of India

Apprehending dilution of the AFSPA shield against prosecution for actions against militants and insurgents in disturbed areas after the Supreme Court pressed the CBI to act in cases of alleged “extra-judicial” killings in Manipur, 356 Army officers and soldiers warned that morale and national security could be hurt by the probes.

The serving officers and men moved the apex court after the SC asked the CBI why it was not arresting those chargesheeted for alleged extra-judicial killings. They sought clarity in the mandate given to them to protect the integrity of the country under trying conditions.

The anxiety, apprehension and dissatisfaction of the petitioners, including 75 officers — a brigadier, 29 colonels, 15 lieutenant colonels, 19 majors and 11 captains — who command thousands of soldiers in anti-militancy and anti-insurgency operations in disturbed areas of the northeast and J& K, can pose for difficult question for the court.

With the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in force in Assam and Manipur, some of the petitioners are facing the CBI investigation in cases relating to alleged extra-judicial killings.

‘Soldiers ask if they should continue to fight insurgents’

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra agreed to hear the petition on August 20 after counsel Aishwarya Bhati said the matter required urgent adjudication as the issues raised affected the morale of armed forces, tasked to maintain security and integrity of the nation.

“A country that doubts its soldiers and their martyrdom is bound to lead to a collapse of its sovereignty and integrity,” the Army officers among the petitioners said. They said they had been constrained to file the petition in view of an extremely hostile situation on the ground due to prosecution of officers and soldiers for bona fide actions during military operations.

They said questioning honest actions had a demoralising effect on officers and soldiers deployed in disturbed areas for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in J&K and northeastern states.

“Soldiers never hesitate to lay down their lives in the line of duty in order to uphold the dignity of the Indian flag. However, the extraordinary circumstances in which their colleagues are being persecuted and prosecuted for carrying out their bona fide duties, without making any distinction or determination whether the acts in question were done in good faith, without any criminal intent, has compelled them to approach the SC,” the petitioners said.

If the armed forces were not given the protection they required to engage with enemies at the frontiers and within in actions that could mean dying in the line of duty, there would be grave peril to national sovereignty, endangering India’s existence as a constitutional sovereign democratic republic, they added.

The officers said soldiers under their command were asking if they should continue to fight against militants and insurgents engaged in proxy war against India or operate as per peace time yardsticks guided by the Criminal Procedure Code.

They said when soldiers got ambushed, they had to make split second decisions to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the country, which was on a higher pedestal than even the Constitution and which the judges take oath to protect, the officers said.

”SC judge vitiated trial with ‘murderer’ remark”

August 15, 2018: The Times of India

‘It’s A Serious Blow To Morale Of The Force’

Six Manipur police commandos facing prosecution in alleged extra-judicial killing cases moved the Supreme Court complaining that Justice Madan B Lokur’s remark terming them and armed forces personnel “murderers” had vitiated the impending trial in these cases.

The petitioners quoted Justice Lokur’s remarks during hearing of the case in which the CBI director was summoned on July 31. They claimed the judge had told the CBI director, “According to you, there are 14 murderers in these cases and they are loafing around Manipur freely. You have not arrested any of them. What happens to society? If somebody commits rape, what is there to recover? So you (CBI) will allow him to roam free?”

Terming the remarks unbecoming of an SC judge, the petitioners said, “Calling the members of armed forces and police force ‘murderers’ and comparing them with rapists has dealt a serious blow to the morale of the forces and their families, little realising that (responsibility to maintain) sovereignty and security of the nation is placed on the shoulders of these members of the forces, who very often lay down their lives for the safety and security of the motherland and its citizenry.

“With hostile neighbours around, the country can ill-afford to have a demoralised, confused and low morale force that may imperil the very existence of the nation, its Constitution, the rule of law and fair and impartial administration of criminal justice system of the country.”

Recalling SC judgments, which had ruled that free and fair trial was part of an accused person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the petitioners said they were accused of ‘fake encounters’ by vested interest groups but the least the SC could have done was to ensure a fair trial. They said the issue should be referred to a five-judge bench and Justice Lokur should not hear the petitions alleging extra-judicial killings in Manipur.

The petitioners said the issue should be referred to a five-judge bench and Justice Lokur should not hear the case.


A brief history

Prabin Kalita, Sep 5, 2023: The Times of India

Guwahati : Home minister Amit Shah made some suggestions to Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma on easing the process of completely lifting the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the state, reports Prabin Kalita.

The contentious legislation vests extraordinary powers on armed forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in places categorised as “disturbed areas”.

In Assam, the Act is in force in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao till September 30, after which the situation in these areas, which border Nagaland and the southern districts of Arunachal Pradesh, will be reviewed. 
The “disturbed areas” notification was first clamped in Assam in 1990. Afspa has since been extended at regular intervals, based on periodic review of law and order.

Based on assessments by the ministry of home affairs, there was a 76% decline in militancy-related violence and disruptions in the North-East in 2022, compared to 2014. Similarly, the number of security personnel and civilian deaths dropped by 90% and 97% respectively during this period.

Earlier, CM Sarma said that his government’s aim was to fully withdraw Afspa by the end of the year.

Manipur and the AFSPA

SC: Is AFSPA in Manipur eternal?

The Times of India, Jan 15 2016

Dhananjay Mahapatra

SC: Is AFSPA in Manipur eternal?

The Supreme Court asked the Manipur government how long the Army should be deployed in the state and allowed to enjoy unaccountable power under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The court had appointed a high-level panel headed by an ex-judge of the SC to inquire into allegations that the armed forces had carried out over 1,500 extra-judicial killings in the last over 30 years, and that police were refusing to file FIRs because of AFSPA.

AFSPA was imposed in Manipur on September 8, 1980 to tackle lawlessness created by four main insurgent groups. Petitions by NGO Extra-judicial Execution Victims Families Association of Manipur -filed through Babloo Loitongbam -and former director of Manipur health services, Th Suresh Singh, had sought the withdrawal of AFSPA.

After getting the report and hearing the petitions, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit told the state government, “ AFSPA was supposed to be a temporary measure. But it has been there for the last 35 years. Two generations have grown up under the presence of Army .“

Appearing for the Congress-led state government, senior advocate V Giri said AFSPA was still needed to maintain law and order.When AFSPA was imposed, there were four prominent insurgent groups; now, there are more than a dozen, he added. The bench said, “You mean to say that in 35 years of Army presence in the state, the situation has not improved to remove the disturbed area tag from the state? Has nothing changed on the law and order front for the last three decades?“

See also

Irom Chanu Sharmila

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