Rights activists welcome Justice Verma on AFSPA

Say itís never late to wake up

GN Bureau | January 24, 2013



The three-member Justice Verma panel sought review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The Act allows an officer of the armed forces to use measures such as make unwarranted arrests or search any premises to make arrests. To ensure protection of women in conflict areas, the report has made several recommendations.

Civil rights activists have welcome Justice Verma’s recommendations on AFSPA. Amid all the strong protests in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and North Eastern states against AFSPA, Justice Verma committee recommended bringing sexual violence against women by uniformed men under the purview of ordinary criminal law.

"There is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA and AFSPA-like legal protocols in internal conflict areas as soon as possible. This is necessary for determining the propriety of resorting to this legislation in the area(s) concerned," he said.

Key points of the report are:
•         Women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is afforded to citizens in any other part of our country
•         Recommended sexual violence against women by uniformed men under the purview of ordinary criminal law
•         Appointment of special commissioners for safety of women in conflict areas
•         Reorientation of training of armed forces to include laws and issues related to women's safety

Comments on AFSPA:
Suhas Chakma, director, Asian Centre for Human Rights says the then Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Verma headed the constitutional bench of the supreme court which upheld constitutional validity of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act on 27 November 1997 in the case of Naga People's Movement for Human Rights vs Union Of India. Given that historical context, the recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee for repeal of the AFSPA to deal with crimes by the armed forces against women is welcome. It is never late to wake up."

Jinine Laishramcha, Human Rights activist, says the judicial migration of bringing the sexual violence on women by military personnel under civil judicial mechanism is a favorable step. Yes, it will be helpful to prevent sexual offences in a militarised area like Manipur. But the more critical concern would be the scrapping of AFSPA since this military legislation is racist in character, and causes de-facto and de-jure impunity for military and counter-insurgency police. We should not ignore the continuous human rights violations and those hundreds of killings in fake encounters under the impunity of AFSPA because the ultimate sufferings and a kind of secondary sexual violence come to the women - the wives, mothers and daughters of the victims of the fake encounters.

Dr Showkat Hussain, professor, law department central university, Kashmir, say the Kashmiris have been demanding that ASPA and Disturbed Areas Act should not be used as a shield by Indian security forces for offences committed against civilians, be it rape or otherwise.  Given the fact that the situation has normalised in the valley, there is no justification for continuation of these draconian acts.

Khurram Parvaiz, human rights activist, say reviewing of ASPA is not enough even though we welcome this recommendation by Justice JS Verma. It is a case of too little too late. Everyone of those should also be brought to book who have committed heinous crimes against women in Kashmir and hid themselves behind ASPA. Indian security forces have used ASPA to provide impunity to criminals within its establishment. How can a rape happen in the line of action?  

(With inputs from Pratap Vikram Singh and Adnan Bhat)

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