Centre may amend AFSPA; Army could lose cover
The government is planning to go ahead with certain amendments in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
New Delhi: Notwithstanding opposition from the Army and faced with reports of fake encounters, the government is planning to go ahead with certain amendments in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which includes handing over of an Army personnel in case of extra-judicial killings to the state authorities.
While of late, Army officials have been raising issues and even terming AFSPA as a `holy book`, government sources feel that there was a need to give a fresh look to the Act and make it more humane.
A draft note has been circulated to the Law and Defence ministries for their comments as the UPA government continues to strive hard to fulfil the assurance made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in carrying out a thorough review of the AFSPA and making it more humane, the sources said.
Once a view is firmed up, the amendments would be listed before the Cabinet Committee on Security, they said.
The AFSPA gives the Army the powers to detain and, if the situation warrants, eliminate suspected terrorists when they are fighting insurgents without the fear of prosecution.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act only in force in some areas in Kashmir and insurgency-affected states in the north east.
The Second Administrative Reforms Committee had suggested to the government replacing of the Act with an amended law which gives the Centre the right to deploy the Army or para-military forces in situations involving national security.
According to the sources, the amendments also include handing over of Army personnel, who allegedly indulge in fake killings, to the local police authorities for prosecution.
The issue of amendments has been regularly been raised by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah with several senior Central leaders including the Prime Minister and Home Minister P Chidambaram.
Northern Army Commander Lt Gen BS Jaswal, in his recent interview to a news channel, had said, "I would like to say that the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Power Act are very pious to me and I think to the entire Indian Army.
"We have religious books, there are certain guidelines which are given there. But all the members of the religion do not follow it, they break it also. Does it imply that you remove the religious book or you remove this chap?"
Recently, Jammu and Kashmir Police had faced an uphill task while dealing with the Army when three youths were allegedly shot dead in a fake encounter.
Among the accused was an Army major. There have been demands for scrapping of the Act from some of the north eastern states especially Manipur where several civil rights activists have been blaming the Army for misusing it.