Centre decides to keep Special Powers to Assam Rifles in Abeyance after Congress, AIUDF walkout of Assembly

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Centre decides to keep Special Powers to Assam Rifles in Abeyance after Congress, AIUDF walkout of Assembly

Nehal Jain | February 23, 2019 11:06 hrs

GUWAHATI: The Congress and AIUDF staged a walkout in Assam Assembly on Friday after their demands of an adjournment motion to discuss special powers granted to Assam Rifles was turned down by the Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami.

Amid the uproar in northeastern state governments against the sweeping power given to Assam Rifles, the home ministry on Friday said that the entire matter will be revisited in consultation with the state governments concerned.

It has been decided that the enabling notifications issued on February 19, giving powers to Assam Rifles be kept in abeyance and the entire matter be revisited in consultation with the state governments concerned, a home ministry official said.

While the state government expressed willingness to discuss the matter through other means, the Congress, AIUDF and AGP stood united in their demand to debate it only via adjournment motion.

Three separate adjournment motion were submitted by the Congress, AIUDF and AGP as they felt that the contentious notification giving special powers to Assam Rifles would violate human rights and bring in military rule.

Opposition leader Debabrata Saikia questioned why the notification was issued when the BJP-led government has been claiming that peace prevails in northeast. "There is a report which says that out of 100 cases of Assam Rifles, human rights have been violated in 37. It empowers even the lowest ranked officer to arrest a person without warrant. It will lead to a complete violation of human rights," he added.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Chandra Mohan Patowary, said that the state government is ready to discuss the matter if brought under other means instead of an adjournment motion.

The senior BJP leader also said that the northeast shares 4,800 kms of international boundary and the terror attack on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Jammu and Kashmir showed that some forces are working to destabilize the integrity of India.

Countering him, Saikia asked, "This notification does not include Kashmir, but northeast only. Also, does it mean that law and order in the region has broken down and so special power has been given to paramilitary?"

Listening to both sides of the discussion, the speaker allowed for a discussion on the topic in the next two days of the Budget Session, disallowing the adjournment motion. 

On this, the Congress and AIUDF members objected to the Speaker's ruling and left the House in protest. The AGP members, however, were not part of the walkout.

From news earlier in the week: 

Assam Rifles personnel empowered to arrest, search sans warrant in NE

Assam Rifles personnel have been empowered by the central government to arrest anyone and search a place without warrant in northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.

"An officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest rank of members of the Assam Rifles has been given these powers under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)," stated a notification issued by the Home Ministry.

The Assam Rifles is the leading counter-insurgency force in the northeast. It also guards the sensitive India-Myanmar border. At present, there are 46 battalions of Assam Rifles with a sanctioned strength of 63,747 personnel. The paramilitary force is under the control of the union ministry of home affairs.

Assam Rifles personnel will exercise these powers and discharge their duties "Under sub-section(1) of section 41, sections 47, 48, 49, 51, 53, 54, 149, 150, 151 and 152 of the CrPC within the local limits of the area comprised within the border districts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.

Section 41 of the CrPC states that any police officer may, without an order from a magistrate and without a warrant, arrest any person. Section 47 gives powers for search of place entered by a person sought to be arrested.

Section 48 says a police officer may, for the purpose of arresting without warrant any person whom he is authorised to arrest, pursue such person into any place in India. 

According to Section 49, the person arrested shall not be subjected to more restraint than is necessary to prevent his escape.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which is operational in some parts of the northeast, also gives similar powers to the Army operating in the region.

Opposition parties counter the move, term it ‘unconstitutional’ 

The Assam Assembly erupted on Friday, February 22, as the opposition comprising Indian Natiional Congress, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Asam Gana Parishad (AGP) fully opposed the notification issued by ministry of home affairs in the budget session of Assam Legislative Assembly. 

While the Opposition raised the adjournment motion, the speaker of the assembly did not allow it.
 
The notification was strongly termed "unconstitutional" and the Opposition parties called out the grave human rights and fundamental rights violations that this ministry order would cause.

 "This (notification) is not acceptable. It's unconstitutional and by this power, it will destroy the human rights and fundamental rights of northeast peoples," said Debabrata Saikia, leader of the opposition.

Similarly, AGP MLA, Pabindra Nath Deka, who moved the resolution on behalf of his party, said that it is a dangerous and shocking notification, which can "devastate" peoples' lives in the region. 

Speaking on the occasion, Deka said, "The government of Assam failed to maintain the law and order situation of the state. It's a picture of failure, nothing else."

"This move will violate our fundamental rights. It seems the Centre and Narendra Modi want us to take back to Assam Agitation period of murder and loot by forces. Because of unlimited power given to forces, 855 people were martyred then," he added.

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