Today (27 May 2015), Tripura Government lifted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) from the Tripura state with immediate effect after a decision was taken to that effect in the cabinet meeting. This was announced by the state chief minister Shri Manik Sarkar. It is noteworthy that AFSPA had been in operation in Tripura since 1997. However, at present AFSPA was fully operational only in 26 police stations areas and partially operational in 4 police station areas out of a total of 74 police stations and 36 outposts in Tripura. AFSPA has now been removed in view of the drastic reduction in the insurgency activities in the state over a period of time.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 is applicable to the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura [it is noteworthy that there is a similar but a separate Act called Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990, which is applicable in the state of Jammu and Kashmir]. However, AFSPA is actually applicable to only those areas of these north-eastern states which are declared as “disturbed area” under the provisions of Section 3 of this Act. This declaration has to be renewed after every 6 months by reviewing the changed situation.
The chief minister of Tripura stated that when the proposal of further extension of AFSPA came to the government, it sought report from all concerned about latest law and order situation in regard to activities of the extremists. The security agencies agreed to the proposal of lifting the provisions of AFSPA from the state.
It is pertinent to mention that as per Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, if, in relation to any State or Union Territory to which this Act extends, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of that Union Territory or the Central Government, in either case, is of the opinion that the whole or any part of such State or Union Territory, as the case may be, is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of that Union Territory or the Central Government, as the case may be, may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare the whole or such part of such State or Union Territory to be a disturbed area.
Once a particular area is declared as a disturbed area, under Section 4 of the said Act, officers of the armed forces get special powers in that area to deal with certain situations. These special powers are available to any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces. In exercise of such powers, such an officer in a disturbed area may:
(a) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances;
(b) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do, destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made or are attempted to be made, or any structure used as a training camp for armed volunteers or utilised as a hide-out by armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence;
(c) arrest, without warrant, any person who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence and may use such force as may be necessary to effect the arrest;
(d) enter and search without warrant any premises to make any such arrest as aforesaid or to recover any person believed to be wrongfully restrained or confined or any property reasonably suspected to be stolen property or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances believed to be unlawfully kept in such premises, and may for that purpose use such force as may be necessary.
Section 6 of AFSPA provides protection to persons acting under this Act by laying down that no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.