New Delhi: Welcoming the life sentence of five army personnel in the Machil fake encounter case in Jammu and Kashmir, former Home Minister P Chidambaram on Friday said the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is an "obnoxious law" that has no place in a modern, civilised country.
"AFSPA is an obnoxious law that has no place in a modern, civilised country. It purports to incorporate the principle of immunity against prosecution without previous sanction. In reality, it allows the Armed Forces and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to act with impunity," Chidambaram said in a statement here.
He said the Machil incident was not the first or will not be the last case of an alleged encounter involving personnel of Army or CAPF, unless the underlying cause was addressed.
"I welcome the decision of the court martial recommending the punishment of life sentence to five Army personnel found guilty of killing three citizens belonging to Kashmir in Machil in 2010," he said.
The former Home Minister, who was in office when the fake encounter took place, had a few days ago termed the alleged killing of two youths by Army in Budgam as "horrific".
He also referred to the publishing of the enquiry report on the torture and murder of a young girl, Thangjam Manorama, in Manipur in 2004. "Other cases such as Pathribal (2000), Ganderbal (2006), Kupwara (2005, 2006) and Bomai (2009) have gone without investigation or punishment. The underlying cause is the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and a similar law in force in Jammu & Kashmir," he said.
Chidambaram said that in 2010 the Home Ministry had initiated the process of repealing, or at least amending, AFSPA. Amendments were proposed to Section 4(a) which allows the use of force "even to the causing of death".
Amendments were also proposed to the sections that permitted search or arrest without warrant in all circumstances, he said, adding that the draft amendments were stoutly resisted by the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence and "it remains an unfinished business".
"We need to amend our criminal and security laws and bring them in conformity with globally accepted standards of human rights. We must make a beginning with AFSPA," he said.
He also asked the central government, especially the Home Minister and the Defence Minister, to bring a Bill to amend AFSPA in the Winter session of Parliament.