Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) to have final say on AFSPA in J&K

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News:The Cabinet Secretariat has notified rules that Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as an authority on the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir(J&K) and Ladakh.

Facts:

Background:

  • Parliament had passed the J&K Reorganisation act,2019.
  • The Act reorganized the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature and the Union Territory of Ladakh without a legislature.
  • The Union Territory of Ladakh will consist of Kargil and Leh districts and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will consist of the remaining territories of the existing state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act:

  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was enacted in 1958 to bring under control what the government of India considered ‘disturbed’ areas.
  • The state or central government considers those areas as ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

Powers under AFSPA:

  • Under Section 4 of the AFSPA, an authorised officer in a disturbed area enjoys certain powers.
  • The authorised officer has the power to open fire at any individual even if it results in death if the individual violates laws which prohibit (a) the assembly of five or more persons; or (b) carrying of weapons.However, the officer has to give a warning before opening fire.
  • The authorised officer has also been given the power to (a) arrest without a warrant and (b) seize and search without warrant any premises in order to make an arrest or recovery of hostages, arms and ammunitions.
  • Further,the prosecution of an authorised officer requires prior permission of the Central government.

States under AFSPA Act:

  • Currently,AFSPA is operational in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • In Arunachal Pradesh,the impact of AFSPA was reduced to eight police stations.
  • Further,Jammu and Kashmir too has a similar Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act,1990.