‘AFSPA Immunity For Forces’ Sex Crimes Must End’

SRINAGAR: Calling for an end to the culture of immunity for uniformed services, noted social activist and India’s first woman IPS officer, Dr. Kiran Bedi, on Monday said that forces personnel accused of sexual crimes should be tried in civilian courts rather than in military tribunals. 

A front-ranking and outspoken member of the India Against Corruption team of Anna Hazare, the former Indian Police Service officer was at the Kashmir University here for a function. 

Dr. Bedi threw her weight behind the recommendations of the Justice Verma Commission set up after last year’s gang-rape in Delhi, and advocated amendments in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, saying this was essential to restrain forces personnel from serious crimes like rape, and ensure the protection of women (particularly in conflict areas). 

“In order to ensure the protection of women in India, the immunity and authority granted to the army, the paramilitary forces and other security agencies under the AFSPA should end,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the function. 

Describing amendments to specific sections of the AFSPA as the need of the hour, Dr. Bedi said that women in India could not be protected unless the immunity granted to the armed forces under the law for serious crimes was removed. 

Amendments in specific sections of the law will make the uniformed forces the real protectors of the life and property of the people, she said. 

Army or paramilitary personnel involved in crimes like rape in Jammu and Kashmir or any other part of the country should be prosecuted in civilian courts and not by courts martial, she said. 

“Rape is not only a serious crime, but also a matter of shame for society. If India has to hold its head high, forces personnel involved in this heinous act should be treated on par with a civilian perpetrator,” she said. 

In reply to a question, she said that the Justice Verma Commission recommendations were “effective and practicable,” and asserted that the state and the central government should take decisions in this context. 

Dr. Bedi, however, chose not to respond to questions on the army’s opposition to withdrawing the AFSPA (from Jammu and Kashmir).

She urged the youth in the state to come forward in eradicating corruption. 

“If the youth step up for positive change, a lot of social problems will be solved,” she said. 

“We will have to stand against injustices at the social, government and administrative levels. Only then can we look forward to a better future,” she said. 

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