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June 08 , 2010

Armed Forces Special Power Act: A Draconian Law?


The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has become one of the most controversial laws, both in India and the world. A few NGOs and human rights activists have described it as draconian, alleging that it gives the armed forces unrestricted power to ‘arrest’ without warrant, ‘destroy property’ and ‘shoot to kill’, besides providing them with complete immunity. The loud and continuous clamour against the Act has drawn the attention of various international organizations. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Christof Heyns, has recently called for the repeal of the law, stating: “AFSPA allows the state to override rights. Such a law has no role in a democracy and should be scrapped.”

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On the other hand, the armed forces hold that the AFSPA is necessary for tackling the growing menace of militancy and protecting their men from the unnecessary harassment caused by litigation. General V K Singh, the former chief of army staff and now a cabinet minister, has emphasized that the AFSPA is a ‘functional requirement’ of the armed forces.

This is the first book in India not only to attempt a complete analysis of the various provisions of the AFSPA, but also to provide an insight into the legislative efforts of other democracies to meet the challenges of growing terrorism. It delves into cases of human rights violations in which members of the armed forces have been implicated, and at the same time, argues that it is equally important to safeguard the human rights of the members of the armed forces. In order to help find an amicable solution, the author makes a few recommendations for the consideration of the government and armed forces.

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