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PUCL, 17 July 2013

Yet another enquiry commission blames AFSPA for fake encounters

Will the apex court take note?

Yet another Judicial Commission, headed by former Supreme Court Judge N. Santosh Hegde, with former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh and Dr Ajay Kumar Singh, IPS, Retd DGP of Karnataka, as its members, this time appointed by the Supreme Court itself, has highlighted the rampant and gross misuse of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) for fake encounters and gross violation of human rights by the security forces in Manipur, justifying the demand for the repeal of the Act by the PUCL and other human rights organizations and activists like Iron Sharmila who has been on fast against the Act for the last 12 years. The Commission had concluded its hearing on 21st March 2013 on various affidavits filed before it. Earlier in September 2012 the Court had appointed the Judicial Commission on a petition by Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families’ Association and Human Rights Alert which had demanded investigation into the encounter killing of 1,528 people by the security forces in Manipur since 1979. After investigating six sample cases of encounter killings the Commission reached the conclusion that the cases were ‘not genuine’ and that ‘maximum force’ force was used to kill people. The Commission also noted that: “Though the Act gives sweeping powers to security forces even to the extent of killing a suspect with protection against prosecution, it does not provide any protection to the citizens against its possible misuse,” adding further that, “Normally, the greater the power, the greater the restraint and stricter the mechanism to prevent its misuse or abuse. But in case of the AFSPA in Manipur this principle appears to have been reversed.”

Earlier Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee and Justice J.S. Verma Committee had also found that the impunity clauses in the Act provided a shield to the personnel of the security forces for indulging in fake encounters and sexual violence against women in areas where the Act is in force. Whereas the Jeevan Reddy Committee had recommended the repeal of the Act saying, “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 should be repealed. Therefore, recommending the continuation of the present Act, with or without amendments, does not arise. The Act is too sketchy, too bald and quite inadequate in several particulars,” Justice Verma Committee had also recommended: “Due to the number of reports of sexual offences committed by the armed forces in India's conflict areas such as Kashmir and the North East, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) - a controversial law that gives sweeping powers to and often confers immunity on security forces - must be reviewed. Security forces must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law rather than under army law.”

In view of the latest report of abuse of the AFSPA, the PUCL again demands its withdrawal from the states where it is in force and its repeal from the statute book. We hope that the Apex Court will take note of the report and declare it unconstitutional as it has been found by all the enquiry committees to have been misused again and again for extra-judicial killings seriously infringing upon the right to life granted by the Constitution of India.

-- By Mahi Pal Singh, National Secretary, PUCL

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014