New Delhi, Feb 22: The Union Home Ministry on Friday withdrew a notification giving sweeping powers to Assam Rifles to conduct searches without a warrant and take people into custody in the non-Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) areas.
According to informed sources, fears of a backlash forced the Centre to scrap the notification.
The Home Ministry put the notification in abeyance and would bring now only after a thorough review and consultations with the state governments concerned, they said.
The issue of re-conferring powers under CrPC to Assam Rifles — given in 1941 and taken back in 2006 — had been pending for long and it was needed for effective enforcement of Free Movement Regime along the India-Myanmar border, the sources explained.
The contours of the Free Movement Regime was elaborated in the land border crossing agreement between India and Myanmar in 2018 that called for suitable powers for border guards.
Some technical faults in the notification and adverse intelligence reports about a possible backlash forced the Centre to reverse its decision.
Northeast is already witnessing protests over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on fears that it would threaten demographic profile of the region.
Centre gives AR power to arrest and search without a warrant
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday morning had empowered Assam Rifles to arrest anyone and search a place without warrant in northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
According to a Home Ministry notification, “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.
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”, the notification said.
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 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.
(With inputs from IANS)