6th Session of the National Conference on Human Rights – “AFSPA & Other Security Laws: What they really Serve?”
Welcome: R.K. Ankhodia (Rtd. Judge) – President, NCHRO, Rajasthan
Chair: Dr. Shamsul Islam – Exco Member, NCHRO.
Keynote: Zamrooda Habib – Writer & Activist, Srinagar.
Speaker: Ravi Nair – Director, South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre.
Ravi Nair – Director (SAHRDC), R.K. Ankhodia (Rtd. Judge) , Zamrooda Habib – Writer & Activist and Dr. Shamsul Islam – Exco Member, NCHRO
The AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and other security laws which is draconian in nature violates basic parameters of Human Rights by giving the forces wide ranging powers including special impunity and has facilitate grave human rights abuses including extra judicial execution, forced disappearances, rape, torture and occupy or destroy property.
A seriously alarming feature of AFSPA is ‘Institutionalizing impunity and perpetrators of crime will be immune to every judicial action’. Under Section 6. ‘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.’
AFSPA is a draconian piece of legislation which gives unrestrained powers to security forces, and when in operation, a citizen is under the constant shadow of fear that he may be turned into a victim by the security forces at any time. Systematic or isolated sexual violence, in the process of Internal Security duties, is being legitimised by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is in force in parts of our country. This legislation makes it harder to investigate allegations of violence and ‘keep going unpunished’ encourage carrying out more and more atrocities.
People share a common aim—to be treated with dignity by virtue of their humanity. It is known that placing anybody above the law will only legitimise indiscriminate killings and perpetuate gross human rights abuses with impunity.
Different committees have been setup by the government and the judiciary to look into the matters relating to Extra-judicial Killing, Forced disappearances, Sexual exploitation, Fake encounter etc. using the garb of AFSPA. Some of them are B.P. Jeevan Reddy committee (2005), Veerappa Moily led ARC, Supreme Court appointed judicial commission headed by Justice Hegde (2013). All of them have come to the conclusion that AFSPA in its current form has to repeal due to following reasons:
1) Act is seen as High handedness of Security officials.
2) Excessive use of force and using it despite having other options to explore.
3) Failing to protect ordinary citizen against its misuse while protecting armed men against prosecution.
When Supreme Court ordered a probe into 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters in Manipur, observed that indefinite deployment of armed forces in the name of restoring normalcy under AFSPA “would mock at our democratic process”.
The bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and B.S. Chauhan of the Supreme Court declared in the case of murdering five villagers by Army in Patribal, Jammu&Kashmir that AFSPA’s protection was limited to acts conducted in the line of duty. “You go to a place in exercise of AFSPA, you commit rape, you commit murder, then where is the question of sanction? It is a normal crime which needs to be prosecuted, and that is our stand” the bench noted.
In 2013, the Justice J.S. Verma Committee that was appointed to look into possible amendments of criminal laws related to sexual violence observed that prosecution of army personnel for an alleged sexual offence should not require sanction from the central government and that offenders should be tried under normal law.
The central government has ignored all these recommendations.
The legal protection provided under special security laws has resulted in no FIRs, convictions or punishments. It is contradictory with our Constitutive documents which disclaim any form of immunity from criminal offences. By ensuring accountability where necessary, and by demonstrating commitment to the rule of law shows integrity of all agencies and that only ensure public trust.
Glorify the country and bash its critics and has covering ‘news’ with a heavy patriotic gloss, even passing off hoaxes and conspiracy theories as news is the norm certain media groups followed when the issue of ‘draconian laws’ comes . Representing the ‘disturbed’ area people as dangerous and traitors and who deserve every bit of brutality they’ve suffered is the ‘anchor’ style of certain TV channels.
Whereas the growing awareness about the protection of Human Rights is the matter of satisfaction for human rights activities all over the world, there is a long way to go before humanity could be freed from the clutches of suppression and atrocities committed upon the people.
A law can sometimes serve as a tool – albeit the effectiveness of which is variable – for bringing about change in the behavior of people where other bureaucratic measures have failed. Draconian laws have not only failed to tackle “insurgency”, it is promoting discontent. Any country that claims to be based on the ideals of truth, justice, democracy and humanity must try to solve the problem, not suppress it.
Above all, the sovereignty of the People is Supreme with respect to the Constitution and that all Public officials and Institutions exercise Power given to them by the People through the constitution. To that extent, any Law that is inconsistent with the Constitution is Null and Void to the extent of that inconsistency, and nobody therefore is above the Law.
YouTube Videos uploaded by Delegates:-
1) Prof. Nivedita Menon, JNU on Universities and Academic Freedom :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifv633-H_WM
2) Umar Khaild, JNU on Universities and Academic Freedom :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhwpC0BqRMc
3) Vasantha Kumari Wife of Prof. Saibaba :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYtm_gNOrKQ
4) Shadaf Mushraf (Sister of missing JNU scholar Najeeb) :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2-4OtJsyYY
5) Cultural Program by Sangwari Group :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTC_rjwu4h8