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New Delhi: Justice Arun Mishra, the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on Friday, December 17, said it was wrong to generalise that human rights get violated due to the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in some of the northeastern states.
He also pointed out that the NHRC cannot examine or hold a debate on the legality or constitutionality of the AFSPA.
“It cannot be generalised that human rights are violated due to imposition of AFSPA. The government should review the need for application or withdrawal of the Act,” Justice Mishra told reporters, after the conclusion of a two-day camp here.
There has been a vociferous demand from several sections in the northeastern states to withdraw the Act after a botched counter-insurgency operation in Nagaland killed 15 civilians on December 4. In the northeast, AFSPA is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council Area), and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The law empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant.
However, he asserted that NHRC viewed custodial deaths or extra-judicial killings “very seriously”, adding that all such cases must be reported or it may take suo moto cognisance.
Mishra further said that NHRC would examine the merits of the cases and announce compensation for the family members of the victims, which would be then complied with by the respective state government.
Referring to the recent botched counter-insurgency operation in Nagaland’s Oting village which claimed 15 lives of civilians, Justice Mishra said the NHRC had taken up the case suo moto and issued notices to authorities concerned as the state does not have a unit of the statutory agency.
“We have sought a report from the Union home ministry and the special investigation team (SIT) that has been set up to probe the incident. It will, however, not be proper to comment on the merit of the case at this stage,” he added.
Asked about the series of police encounters that have taken place in Assam since May this year, the NHRC chairperson said that there is “no place for fake encounters in a civilised society. It is barbaric and cannot be allowed. The law must take its own course”.
Altogether 32 people have been killed and at least 55 injured in police action in the state since the BJP-led government assumed office in May this year.
Commenting on the encounters, he said, “At the same time, we cannot allege that all encounters are fake. Some may be fake, but we take up each complaint and examine the merit of each case. There are three aspects that the NHRC looks into in such matters – compensation for the victim or his or her family, registration of criminal cases and initiation of departmental action against the accused.”
To a question on the recent eviction of “illegal settlers” from government land in Assam, Justice Mishra pointed out that the case was pending before the Gauhati high court, implying that he would not comment.
“The matter is sub-judice and we will not interfere in the legal process. We are, however, concerned about the fate of displaced people and have directed the state government to ensure their rehabilitation,” he added.
(With PTI inputs)