WGHR STATEMENT ON
ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWERS) ACT
New Delhi, 27 August 2012 – When the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special
Powers Bill was introduced in the LokSabha in August 1958, MP Mahanty of Dhenkanal
raised a point of order stating that “we cannot proceed with this Bill unless certain
constitutional obligations imposed under article 352(1) of the constitution are fulfilled” as
certain parts of the bill directly come under emergency provisions of the Indian Constitution.
The then Union Home Minster Mr. G. B. Pant justified the bill arguing that “the local
Government may make use of the army, if it so chooses in the manner provided in this
Bill, and can use the army only for this limited purpose, and thereafter the ordinary
processes of law are to be followed”.
Today, 54 years have gone by “the ordinary processes of law” is yet to replace the “special
powers” in many part of the country. In fact the application of the “special powers” has been
steadily spreading ever since. The “disturbed areas” confined to only the Naga Hills in1950s
spread to Lushai Hill in1960s, to Tripura and Imphal valley in 1970s, Brahmaputra valley and
Punjab in 1980s and Kashmir valley in 1990s. In these areas, the fundamental rights such as
the right to life, the right to a fair trial, the right to remedy and reparation, the right against
torture and the right against arbitrary detention (as well as a series of economic, social and
cultural rights) have been consistently violated.
The exercise of special powers have also gone way beyond the “limited purpose” that the
Home Minister proposed as the military stationed in the ‘disturbed areas’ embarks upon its
mission to “win the hearts and minds” of the population. Over and above the usual leveling of
football grounds or organizing medical camps, the military civic action programmes are now
intruding into academic seminars and religious ceremonies! The prolonged application of this
Act has not only institutionalized militarism and a climate of impunity but has also alienated
the public and fuelled a cycle of violence, increasing insurgency rather than dampening it.
The resistance against AFSPA is no longer confined to opposition parties or civil society but
many official bodies including the Union Home Ministry’s Committee to Review the Armed
Forces Special Powers Act (2005), the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2007)
and the Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir (2007)
have all recommended its repeal.
AFSPA has come up prominently during the second review India’s human rights record in the
Working Group on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council in May
2012 and several recommendations were made:
1. Repeal AFSPA or adopt the negotiated amendments to it that would address the
accountability of security personnel, the regulation concerning detentions as well as
victim’s right to appeal in accordance to international standards (Slovakia);
2. Review AFSPA to align it with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights and other international standard (Switzerland); and
3. Carry out an annual review of the AFSPA aiming to gradually reduce its geographical
4. Guarantee effective access to justice in cases of human rights violations committed
by security forces personnel with regard to the use of torture (Spain).
5. Implement effective judiciary proceedings making possible the bringing to justice
security forces personnel who have committed human rights violations (France)
This is not the first time that the issue of AFSPA is raised in the UN forum, it came up during
the first UPR review in 2008 and earlier almost all the major human rights treaty bodies of the
UN have exposed how AFSPA violates a series of universal human rights standards and
have recommended its repeal.
Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, in her report
presented to the UN Human Rights Council (March 2012) following her official visit to India in
January 2011, highlighted the plight of Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike since
2000 demanding the repeal of AFSPA and recommended that “The National Security Act,
the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Unlawful Activities Act, the Jammu and Kashmir
Public Safety Act and the Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act should be repealed”.
Prof. Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary
Executions who also made an official visit to India in March 2012, also describes AFSPA
“more intrusive than it would be the case under a state of emergency, since the right to life is
in effect suspended, and this is done without the safeguards applicable to states of
emergency”. The then Union Home Minster Mr. P. Chidambaram, promptly stated in the
media that his Union Home Ministry has already recommended amendments to AFSPA, but
a final decision on the matter is pending with the Cabinet Sub Committee on Security. The
Defence Ministry, it has been reported, is blocking the proposed amendment. In this context
it is interesting to note that the Government of India’s interlocutors’ report on Jammu and
Kashmir, made public in May 2012, has also recommended the review AFSPA and went on
to urge the Defence Ministry to consider how to respond “positively” to the issue.
WGHR strongly urges the government of India to utilize this opportunity of the UPR process
at the UN Human Rights Council to repeal AFSPA as recommended by numerous countries.
Such an act from the Government would be consistent with India being a democratic nation
that claims to comply with its constitutional mandate and international human rights
For more information, please contact Mr. Babloo Loitongbam (+91 9862008838) or Ms
Vrinda Grover (+91 9810806181)
The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN – a national coalition of fourteen human
rights organisations and independent experts – works towards the realisation of all civil, cultural,
economic, political and social human rights in India and towards holding the Indian government
accountable to its national and international human rights obligations. For information on WGHR,
please visit: www.wghr.org
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