AFSPA amendments likely in next CCS meeting

Last Updated: Friday, December 17, 2010 - 15:19

New Delhi: Notwithstanding the opposition from
the Army and the Defence Ministry, the amendments to the
controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, aimed at making
it "more humane", are likely to be placed soon before the
highest government body on security issues.

Government sources said the proposal for the amendment,
which is strongly backed by Home Minister P Chidambaram,
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and several
groups in the Northeast, is expected to be placed before the
next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

Through the amendment, it is being proposed that arrest
warrants are secured in advance and grievance cells set up to
address citizens` complaints against the armed forces, the
sources said.

By amending clause 4 (a) of the controversial Act, the
government proposes to abolish the power given to the armed
forces which allows them to open fire causing death, they
said.

The proposed amendments were submitted before the CCS three
months ago but were sent back to Home Ministry for
reconsideration following strong opposition from the Defence
Ministry. Army says the Act provides it with essential legal
protection, a stand backed by Defence Minister A K Antony.

But the Home Ministry, after examination, decided to
re-submit the proposed amendment bill to the CCS without any
changes. The revised proposal has also incorporated the views
of the three interlocutors appointed to find a solution to the
Kashmir issue.

AFSPA, often dubbed as "draconian" for the widespread
powers it gives to the Army - guarantees that army officers
can operate without fear of arrest by civil authorities.

The Defence Ministry`s view, however, is that while these
amendments are acceptable in a scenario where the army is
called in to aid civil authority - for example, in the case of
riots and civil unrest - they are too restrictive in Kashmir
and the Northeast where the army has to take on well-trained,
heavily-armed fighters, they said.

The Home Minister has often been citing the statement made
by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that "he will take steps to
replace the AFSPA by a more humane law."

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has also
recommended replacement of AFSPA.

PTI



First Published: Friday, December 17, 2010 - 15:19

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