Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act

[op-ed snap] Who defends the defenders?op-ed snap


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AFSPA

Mains level: SC verdict on ending AFSPA impunity & its impact on army functioning


Context

Plea against AFSPA amendments

  1. In an unprecedented and hitherto inconceivable step, 356 serving officers and jawans of the Indian army filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court
  2. They are seeking relief for officers and troops serving on counter-insurgency duties from “persecution and prosecution” for performing their “bona fide duties carried out in good faith”
  3. This development has several far-reaching and serious implications, not only for the military and its leadership, but also for the Indian state, which appears to have, yet again, failed in its responsibilities vis-à-vis the military as well as governance

Problem with this petition

  1. A collective action of this nature by serving personnel has legal and moral/ethical connotations for the military
  2. By jointly filing a writ petition, this 356 serving personnel could be considered as violating the Constitution, which denies armed force personnel the right to form “associations” and the Army Act, which forbids collective petitions or representations
  3. Resort to litigation, once rare and considered distasteful has, however, became common amongst military personnel mainly due to judicial activism

Why the need for this petition arose?

  1. The root of this whole problem is the deployment of the army in disturbed areas under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)
  2. Counter-insurgency operations, worldwide, tend to become “dirty” and difficult because they are waged against one’s own citizens
  3. The army happens to be a “blunt instrument”, trained and motivated to destroy the nation’s enemies through extreme violence
  4. Soldiers, being human, do make mistakes and violations of human rights have occurred from time to time
  5. The SC verdict on ending impunity to soldiers under AFSPA (Read here) has resulted in criminal cases being registered against them under Criminal procedure code

What needs to be done?

  1. Most insurgencies, rooted in alienation and socio-economic factors, are aggravated by political venality and apathy
  2. Even when the army restores relative peace and normalcy, the local police and administration repeatedly fail to resume their normal functioning
  3. One option can be to withdraw AFSPA and the army and hand over CI operations to CAPFs
  4. Another one can be to withdraw AFSPA, deploy the army and ensure that each patrol, ambush and covert operation has an embedded magistrate to authorise opening/returning fire

Way Forward

  1. Soldiers are equal citizens with equal rights and not sacrificial lambs for those with a confused national perspective
  2. The actions of our soldiers, when acting on behalf of the state, must be dealt with under the Army Act and not the CrPC.
  3. The state must also react with urgency to insulate its soldiers from over-zealous NGOs and excessive judicial activism

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