The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 is the Central legislation enacted on September 11, 1958 to provide some special authority and power to the armed forces members in the disturbed areas in some of the eastern States like Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Manipur in India. As described under the present enactment, armed forces embraces of the military added with the air forces that are functioning as land forces and takes account of other Central armed forces operating under like areas. The disturbed area as defined under the enactment is the area which is approved by the Union Government to be as such by notifying in the Gazette for the time being. Additionally, other words and terms that are not defined under the enactment shall be interpreted with the definition provided under the Air Forces Act, 1950 as well as the Army Act, 1950.
With respect to a State or Union Territory where the applicability of the legislation extends, the Governor or the Administrator of the State or Union Territory respectively is of the suggestion that the entire or some parts of the State or the Union Territory is under risky, unsafe or disturbed situation that the operation by the armed forces to safeguard the area is essential, the Governor or the Administrator or even the Union Government may affirm the entire or some parts of the State or Union Territory to be disturbed area by notification as provided under the Act. The Act empowers the commissioned or non-commissioned or warrant officers or other officials of like nature to do all the requirements for the maintenance of peace and security in the disturbed area and restrict the unlawful assembly or carrying of arms or artillery or explosive materials. But such officer shall take due care by giving proper information to the public regarding the exercise of such force.
Also, the officer is under authority to destruct any arm stores, arranged or secured positions, camps used for training for volunteers or absconders who have committed any offence. He can also arrest any person who is charged with a cognizable offence or is rationally believed to have committed such offence, without a warrant and can employ force for arrest if necessitated. The officer in charge has the power to enter any premises and search any property for the purpose of arresting or to recover weapons, explosive materials or other destructive substances which is unlawfully restrained and can seize such substances. The search and seizure includes a vehicle as well as vessel which are rationally believed to take persons or destructive arms. When a person is arrested or detained under custody of the officer, such officer shall immediately hand over such person to the officer on duty of the police station near by with the report containing the situations which led to such arrest and seizure. Immunity is granted under the Act to the officers empowered to arrest and seizure. Such officers are protected from prosecution or other legal acts for the duties performed to comply with the authority conferred on them. Such immunity shall be contravened only with the prior permission of the Central Government.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has repealed The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance, 1958. For granting special powers on the armed forces, the Central Government has also pioneered Armed Forces Special Powers (Assam and Manipur) Act, 1958, Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers (Amendment) Act, 1972, Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act, 1983 and Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990. Even though the expediency of the enactment has been accepted generally particularly with regard to even out the Kashmir Valley and maintain order, the Act contains some gaps to be filled. It is criticized for violating Human Rights in some parts where the Act is effectuated. The officers are condemned for arbitrary exercise of power conferred on them.