Once again the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is in the limelight because of the present edition of Parliamentary elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Congress manifesto talks about the lifting of the special powers given to security agencies if elected. The Centre had moved the Supreme Court few years back seeking hearing on its curative plea against the verdict by which the protection given to armed forces during anti-terrorism operations in areas where AFSPA is in force has been negated. The apex court in its verdict delivered on July 8, 2016 year had given the state police liberty to probe the role of armed forces in alleged encounter cases in areas where the AFSPA is in force. The Act was enacted in 1958 to bring under control what the Government of India considered ‘disturbed’ areas. The Act has often faced flak from human rights groups as it gave sweeping powers and immunity to the army in conflict-ridden areas. In Jammu and Kashmir, the Act was born during Governor’s Rule in 1990 as ‘Governor’s Act No. 12’. In 1992, it was replaced by the J&K Disturbed Areas Act. And in 1997, when Farooq Abdullah was Chief Minister, the Legislative Assembly ratified the law for one year. But in October 1998, it was allowed to lapse in response to a huge wave of resentment against the misuse of its provisions. The other State which had earliest contact with this law was Punjab and Chandigarh in 1983 due to secessionist movements and lasted for 14 years until 1997. What is interesting was that while the Punjab government withdrew its DAA in 2008, it continued in Chandigarh till September 2012 when the Punjab and Haryana High Court struck it down following a petition filed by a local member of the Janata Dal (United). Now the question is if security agencies have to operate in such disturb and volatile conditions they have to be protected by special laws otherwise why should they sacrifice their men? The query should be addressed rightly first rather becoming emotional. As far as allegations of misuse are concerned it is trivial as even the set norms are being violated in normal life sphere be the government formed by the elected or anyone else.
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