Thursday, September 16, 2010

Indian Armed Forces Special Powers Act Under Review

Aerospace Daily
Sept 16, 2010

NEW DELHI — The Indian government is in a dilemma over whether to suspend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in some areas in Kashmir.

Under the act, all security forces are given unrestricted power to carry out their operations once an area is declared disturbed.

Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said Sept. 14 that for soldiers to perform their duties efficiently, they deserve “all the legal protection” they can get.

The army agrees. In a meeting last week, Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh reminded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of a similar instance in the northeast where forces were withdrawn and insurgents regrouped and established their presence.

Many in the past have referred to the act as “draconian legislation.” It was first applied to the northeastern states of Assam and Manipur, and was amended in 1972 to extend to all seven states in India’s northeastern region.

“Armed forces should not be allowed to arrest or carry out any procedure on suspicion alone. All their actions should have an objective basis so that they are judicially reviewable,” says the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Center, a think tank.

But an analyst warns that “the dilution of the act could have serious repercussions at the tactical level. It could result in loss of morale and reluctance amongst the security forces to undertake operations fearing litigation, thereby leading to a slow tempo of operations.”

Defense Minister A.K. Antony is noncommittal on the decision. “Before we take a final decision, it is better to involve everyone,” he says. “Yesterday we had a very long meeting. Ultimately, we thought before we take a final decision, we will take into confidence all the major parties so that everybody is involved.”

Antony made his remarks while talking to reporters after launching the high-speed Air Force Network in New Delhi.
– Neelam Mathews

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