New Delhi: In a significant development, the Centre has decided to put on hold its decision to give sweeping powers to the Assam Rifles to carry out arrests and search without a warrant in non-AFSPA areas in the Northeast, fearing a backlash.
Sources in home ministry said, a "technical anomaly" in the notification, dated February 19, also prompted the government to put it on hold.
At a time when there is a call to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a decision to give unbridled powers to the force could lead to more trouble on the ground.
The Centre had issued a notification three days ago giving powers to the Assam Rifles to arrest anyone and search a place without warrant in Northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram. There was a huge resistance from local leaders of the concerned states against the Centre's decision.
"The Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to keep the notification giving powers under Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to Assam Rifles in abeyance," said an official.
The Assam Rifles has long been engaged in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in the Northeastern states.
The notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs states that an “officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest rank of members of the Assam Rifles” will have these powers.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law. If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search a premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.