Armed forces special powers a home ministry problem: IAF chief
Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, who heads the Indian Air Force, on Thursday said removal or dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – that gives the forces a legal immunity in their counter-terror operations – was a “home ministry problem”. He also reiterated his reservations on any alteration in the controversial law.
“I have no comments on (the AFSPA). It is a home ministry problem,” Naik told reporters in New Delhi on the sidelines of a function.
The IAF chief said that he has already expressed his reservations on the matter earlier and has not changed his mind on the issue.
“I have expressed my reservations earlier and they have come out. There is no change in my stand,” he said.
The AFSPA has come under severe criticism from some political circles and human rights activists who accuse the armed forces of misusing the law, which gives them legal immunity in case of a “collateral damage”, during their operations against terrorists and insurgents.
The law is in operation in some terror-hit areas of northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah also has been demanding its revocation from the state.
The armed forces have been opposing any dilution in the act because they say it would have disastrous consequences on the fight against secessionism and insurgency. They also reject the view that extraordinary powers to the armed forces provide unbridled powers to the soldiers.
Naik in October said that any decision on the AFSPA was a prerogative of the government even as he stressed that the controversial legislation was needed as a “legal protection” for soldiers fighting terrorists.
“A soldier fighting anywhere at the request of the government, and not voluntarily, must have legal protection. Otherwise, he would be left inefficient to complete the job in which either the central or the state government has interest,” Naik had said on the annual Air Force Day.
The government is itself divided on the issue with Congress leaders, particularly Defence Minister A K Antony and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, against taking any steps that would come in the way of the army’s fight against terrorists. Home Minister P Chidambaram is in favour of amending the law.
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