NEW DELHI: After giving a free hand to Assam Rifles to carry out searches and arrests in the Northeastern states, the Union Home Ministry on Friday put its decision on hold fearing a backlash. The notification will be revisited in consultation with the state governments concerned, which opposed the move to give sweeping powers to the paramilitary force, MHA officials said on Friday.
It has been decided to keep in abeyance the enabling notification issued on February 19, giving special powers to Assam Rifles that allowed them to arrest anyone and search a place without warrant in five states in the Northeast, officials said. While giving the powers, a Home Ministry notification had said, “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).
The force’s 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”, the notification said.
The notification gave protection to Assam Rifles in areas within states where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has been removed. The AFSPA also gives similar powers to the Army operating in the region.The Assam Rifles is the leading counter-insurgency force in the Northeast. It also guards the sensitive India-Myanmar border.
Officials said on Friday that powers under CrPC were available to the Assam Rifles under the Assam Rifles Act, 1941. However, since the Assam Rifles Act 2006 came into force, the issue of re-conferring these powers has been under consideration.
The matter acquired urgency for effective enforcement of Free Movement Regime on the India-Myanmar border (on a 16-km belt on either side). The Free Movement Regime was streamlined after a bilateral agreement on land border crossing was finalised last year. This will require giving suitable powers to border guarding forces, including Assam Rifles, under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and Passport Act, 1967, and Passport Entry into India Act, 1920, officials said.