Sinlung /
12 April 2013

End AFSPA: Supreme Court’s Sharp Hint

New Delhi, Apr 12 : The comments of a Supreme Court bench, dealing with PILs filed by families of victims of alleged fake encounters in Manipur, are a stinging rebuke of the lack of political will on revoking laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In this instance, the government's response to the damning report of the SC-appointed committee set up to probe six such cases in Manipur was that it agreed that such fake encounters should not take place.

But mere "taking note" will not do any more. The government must speedily act to revoke this black law from wherever it is in effect, be it the north-east or Jammu and Kashmir.

It is clear that such laws have for long been part of the problem in these areas. Blanket immunity for security forces has led to murder, rape and other crimes. And when the legal framework vests such crimes with impunity, it vitiates the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law that are necessary for the citizens of these areas to feel part of the national mainstream.

The SC also sharply brought attention to another vital fact: keeping these laws, and thereby maintaining an unnatural state where the armed forces are seen as the primary representatives of government, mutates the whole political, democratic system itself.

Take note, for example, of repeated statements from the highest levels of government suggesting that while the desirability of doing away with AFSPA has been recognised, objections from the army remain an obstacle.

The notion that the army has a say in what is essentially a political decision belongs more in Pakistan than in India. Here, Parliament makes decisions. And the government, as well as the whole political class, must show the political will to end a law that perpetuates alienation.


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