Imphal, Oct. 20: The Supreme Court’s notice to the Centre and Manipur government on the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has boosted the morale of human rights defenders who have started to believe that their crusade against the AFSPA will not go in vain.
On a public interest litigation filed by former Manipur health director Th. Suresh, a division bench of the apex court yesterday issued notices to the Manipur government and the Centre seeking replies by November 5 citing reasons why the act should not be withdrawn from Manipur as prayed for.
The division bench comprised Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.
The petition prayed for directives to the Centre and the Manipur government to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, called “army act” in popular parlance, from Manipur.
“The act in this present form and the way it is being used is a brazen affront to right to life; it sanctions impunity and protects those who are executing the same,” the petition argued.
The petition listed a chronology of excesses committed by security forces in Manipur under the blanket power given by the act.
The act was enforced in Manipur in 1979 and the entire state except the Imphal municipal limits is now under the act.
The petition also argued that the state did not require the act to deal with the crimes in Manipur as the state forces could deal with them.
The Supreme Court took up the petition at a time when Irom Sharmila will be completing 12 years of her hunger strike in November this year.
Sharmila has been on fast since November 2000, demanding repeal of the army act. She is surviving on nasal feeding in judicial custody.
“We welcome the Supreme Court’s notice. The act is enforced after a state or region is declared disturbed under the Disturbed Areas Act. However, there is no clear criteria for declaring an area disturbed. We hope the Supreme Court will lay down clear criteria for declaring a region disturbed,” Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, Manipur, said.
Irom Singhajit, elder brother of Sharmila, said that so far both the Centre and the state government had not listened to the voices of the people against the act.
“We hope both the Centre and the state government will give a positive reply this time to the Supreme Court notice,” Singhajit said.