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The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958

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INTRODUCTION

Violence became the way of life in north-eastern States of India. State administration became incapable to maintain its internal disturbance. Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance was promulgated by the President on 22nd May of 1958. In which some special powers have been given to the members of the armed forces in disturbed areas in the State of Assam and Union Territory of Manipur. Later the Ordinance was replaced by the armed Forces Special Powers Bill.

STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS

An ordinance entitled the Armed forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance, 1958, was promulgated by the President on the 22nd May, 1958. Section 3 of the Ordinance powers the Governor of Assam and the Chief Commissioner of Manipur to declare the whole or any part of Assam or the Union territory of Manipur, as the case may be, to be a disturbed area. On such a declaration being made in the Official Gazette, any Commissioned Officer, Warrant Officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of
equivalent rank in the armed forces may exercise, in the disturbed area, the powers conferred by section 4 and 5 of the Ordinance. The Bill seeks to replace the Ordinance –See Gazette of India, 11-8-1958, Pt. II-Sec. 2, Ext. p.714 (No.26).

ACT 28 OF 1958

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and it received the assent of the President on 11th September, 1958. It came on the Statute Book as THE ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWERS) ACT, 1958 (28 of 1958).

LIST OF AMENDING ACTS

1. The State of Mizoram Act, 1986 (34 of 1986).
2. The State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986 (69 of 1986).
3. The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers (Amendment)
Act, 1972 (7 of 1972).
4. The Armed Forces Special Powers (Extension to Union Territory of
Tripura) Act, 1970.
5. The Repealing and Amending Act, 1960 (58 of 1960).

THE ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWERS) ACT, 1958
(28 of 1958)

[11th September, 1958]
An Act to enable certain special powers to be conferred upon members of the armed forces in disturbed areas in the State of *[Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura].
Be it enacted by Parliament in Ninth Year of the republic of India as follows:-

1.Short title and extent – (1) This act may be called **[The armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958].
***[(2)] It extends to the whole of the State of ****[Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura].
2. Definitions: In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-
(a) “armed forces’ means the military forces and the air forces operating as land forces, and includes other armed forces of the Union so operating;
(b) ‘disturbed area’ means an area which is for the time being declared by notification under section 3 to be a disturbed area’;
(c) all other words and expressions used herein, but not defined and defined in the Air Force Act, 1950 (45 of 1950), or the army Act, 1950 (46 of 1950) shall have the meanings respectively to them in those
Acts.
3.Powers to declare areas to be disturbed areas – If, in relation to any state or Union Territory to which this act extends, the Governor of that State or the administrator of that Union Territory or the Central government, in either case, if of the opinion that the whole or any part of such State of Union territory, as the case may be, is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of that Union Territory or the Central
Government, as the case may be , may by notification in the Official Gazette, declare the whole or such part of such State or Union territory to be a disturbed area].
*Subs. By Act 69 of 1986,sec.43 for “Assam, Manipur, Megahalya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura and the Union territory of Arunachal Pradesh” (w.e.f. 20.2.1987.)
**Subs by Act 7 of 1973, sec. 3 for ‘the armed forces (Assam and Manipur) special Powers Act, 1958” (w.e.f 5.4.1972).
***Subs by Act 7 of 1972, sec. 4 (w.e.f 5.4.1972).
*****Subs by Act.69 of 1986,sec. 43 for ‘Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura and the Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh’(w.e.f20.2.1987).
Sec 5] The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.

COMMENTS
(i) The Governor is empowered to declare any area of the State as “disturbed area’. It could not be arbitrary on ground of absence of legislative guidelines; Inderjit Barua v.State of Assam, AIR 1983 Del. 514.
(ii) Section 3 cannot be construed as conferring a power to issue a declaration without any time limit. There should be periodic review of the declaration before the expiry of six months; Naga People’s Movement of Human Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1998 SC 431.
4. Special Powers of the armed forces – Any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area,-
(a) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or move persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances;
(b) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do, destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made or are attempted to be made, or any structure used as a training camp for armed volunteers or utilized as a hide-out by armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence;
(c) arrest, without warrant, any person who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence and may use such force as may be necessary to effect the arrest;
(d) enter and search without warrant any premises to make any such arrest as aforesaid or to recover any person believed to be wrongfully restrained or confined or any property reasonably suspected to be stolen property or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances believed to be unlawfully kept in such premises, and may for that purpose use such force as may be necessary.

COMMENTS
(i) Conferment of power on non-commissioned officers like a Havaldar cannot be said to be bad and unjustified : Inderjit Barua v .State of Assam, AIR, 1983 Del 514.
(ii) The armed forces must act in cooperation with the district administration and not as an Independent body. Armed Forces could work in harmony when they deployed in disturbed area: Luithukia v.Rishang Keishing, (1988) 2 Gau LR 159.
5.Arrested persons to be made over to the police –Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with the least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest. In case of arrest of any person, army authority is duty bound to handover to the officer-in-charge of the nearest police station with least possible delay: Horendi Gogoi v. Union of India, (1991) Gau CR 3081.
6. Protection to persons acting under Act – 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.
7. Repeal and Saving – [Repealed by Amending and Repealing Act, 1960 (58 of 1960),First Schedule, sec.2 (26.12.1960].

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