“Disturbed Area”

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1958 and came into force on the 11th of September 1958. The act initially came into force to address the situation in Assam but was later extended to some of the other states to counter any threats that may arise there.

The act is synonymous to the term “disturbed area” which in itself is wide and ambiguous and the scope and ambit of the term is undetermined. The act enables the legislative body to confer upon the armed forces the powers of search and arrest should it see fit to do so.

In 1972 the power to declare an area, state or territory, a “disturbed area”, was extended to the Central Government and as per the 1972 amendment the Central Government does not need parliamentary approval or the approval of the legislative body to declare an area, territory or state a “disturbed area”.

While there is no definition of what constitutes a disturbed area (a disturbed area as per section 2 (b) is an area declared by notification under section 3 of the act), it would be fair to surmise that an area could be designated a “disturbed area” if the lives of ordinary citizens in the area, or those going about their day to day business or lives of members of the armed forces and members of the civil service was put at risk, or an area where the general public are subjected to a higher level of risk than normal or risk other than that which would be deemed acceptable and that risk is a result of, ethnic conflicts, riots, protests or a general lack of law and order.

The special powers conferred on the members of the armed forces, under the act, is to help them or to assist them in bringing the situation under control as soon as possible and to contain and prevent the situation from spreading or escalating.

Copyright © 2019 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam

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