Changes in AFSPA on cards, government tells SC


NEW DELHI, December 6 (Agencies): The Centre on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that it was considering amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which provides sweeping powers to security forces in areas declared disturbed due to militancy.

The ministry of home affairs, in its response to a petition by Th Suresh Singh seeking repeal of the law, said it would not be prudent to repeal AFSPA or withdraw it from northeastern states, even though the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee had recommended its repeal and amending Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to achieve the purpose of AFSPA.

“However, the grim security situation in the northeast, more so in Manipur, caused by unlawful underground militant groups bent upon separation of Manipur from the country, has also been considered by the government on the basis of the advice of the Army, police and other security and intelligence agencies,” the ministry said. “Therefore, it was considered not a prudent step to repeal AFSPA as recommended by the committee. The matter was placed before the Cabinet for making a few amendments in the act after following inter-ministerial consultation procedure. It was advised to place the matter before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) first.”

Narrating the procedure for amendment of the act, the ministry said, “The CCS did not approve the same. As suggested by the competent authority, the process of further consultation between the ministries has been undertaken and a final decision can only be taken by the Cabinet.”

It added, “Moreover, the unmanageability of the powerful militant groups by the local police also compels the state government of Manipur to seek aid of central security forces to keep the insurgent groups under check. Nevertheless, the exercise of amending AFSPA is under consideration of the government.”

The Union government said around 1,500 militants were holding a population of 23 lakh in Manipur to ransom and keeping them in constant fear. “The root cause of militancy in Manipur is the constant endeavour of these insurgent groups to spread fear so that they can continue to extort money and the leaders of such groups can continue to lead luxurious life in foreign countries,” it said.

Referring to the high percentage of voting in the last two assembly elections in Manipur, the home ministry said people of the state had always demonstrated their faith in the country`s institutions. It said, “The ethnic rivalries among different tribes, viz Meiteis, Kukis and Nagas, are deep-rooted and the militant groups fervently advance their ideologies by taking advantage of the porous international border with Myanmar, which is 256 km long, heavily forested and contains some of the most difficult terrain. “Taking advantage of this situation, the militant outfits utilize the other side of the border (which is beyond the jurisdiction of the Indian armed forces) for conveniently conducting their operations of extortions/kidnapping/killing/looting and ambushing the security forces.”

The government said counter-insurgency operations seldom affected the common man. The petitions on extra-judicial killings in Manipur and a plea for withdrawal of AFSPA from the state will come up for hearing in the Supreme Court on Thursday.


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