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In a recent move, the Union Home Ministry has empowered Assam Rifles, the paramilitary force deployed along the Myanmar border, to arrest anyone and search a place without warrant in the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
This empowers “an officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest rank of members of the Assam Rifles” to carry forward the arrest and search without warrant under the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Clearly, this move is to provide AFSPA like powers without actually declaring the area disturbed and invoking AFSPA. A government official’s comment about the notification explains this clearly, where he was quoted to have said, “They were finding it difficult to make seizures and arrest in Mizoram, which doesn’t have AFSPA. This is to basically correct that anomaly. As per law, they have to hand over the suspects to the local police within 24 hours.”
Also Read: AFSPA: Contradictions in Assam
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 Home Ministry notification said.
The section 41 of the CrPC gives the power to any police officer to arrest a person without an order or a warrant while section 47 gives the power of searching the place that a person sought to be arrested has entered. Section 48 gives a police officer the authority to pursue any person, who the police officer is authorised to arrest without any warrant, in any place in India. Again, section 49 says that the person arrested shall not be subjected to more restrain than what is necessary to prevent his escape.
The Assam Rifles is also the leading counter-insurgency force in the Northeast.
The move comes at a very crucial time, when almost the entire Northeast has been boiling over the recent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. In Manipur, things turned uglier, with a curfew being imposed and protesters forced to face police atrocities. A student activist, Veewon Thokchom had to face sedition charges. In Mizoram, slogans like ‘Hello China’, ‘Good bye India’ were also raised.
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