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Understanding the Legality of AFSPA: Naga People Movement Of Human Rights v/s UOI, 1998

The Supreme Court held that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is constitutionally valid. Parliament is competent to enact this Act in view of Entry 1 of the State List and Article 248 read with Entry 97 and Entry 2A of the Union List.

In this case, questions relating to the validity of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (as amended), enacted by Parliament, and the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955, enacted by the State Legislature of Assam, were raised before a constitutional bench of five judges. The court upheld the constitutionality of both the AFSPA and the Assam Act.

The AFSPA was enacted (and later amended) to enable certain special powers to be conferred upon the members of the armed forces in disturbed areas in certain states. It now extends to Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and allows the Government of the State or the Central Government to declare the whole or any part of such a state as a disturbed area if it is considered necessary in their opinion.

In the areas declared as disturbed, certain officers in the Armed Forces have been conferred special powers in respect of matters specified in clauses (a) to (d) of the said section. These powers include the authority to open fire and even kill, as well as to arrest without a warrant and to destroy arms dumps.

Section 6 confers protection to persons acting under the Act and provides that no prosecution, suit, or other legal proceedings 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 the exercise of the powers conferred by the Act.

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