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Forces need legal protection: Air Chief on AFSPA

By The Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, Oct 4 (IANS) - Any decision on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is a prerogative of the government, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, who heads the Indian Air Force, said Monday while stressing that the controversial Act is needed as a "legal protection" for soldiers fighting terrorists.

"A soldier fighting anywhere at the request of the government, and not voluntarily, must have legal protection. Otherwise, he would be left inefficient to complete the job in which either the central or the state government has interest," Naik told reporters ahead of the annual Air Force Day to be celebrated Friday.

However, it is the "government's prerogative" to remove or dilute the AFSPA, he said.

The Air Force Chief was asked to comment on the Act that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces in their counter-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir and some parts of the Northeast.

The Act has come under severe criticism from some political circles and human rights activists who accuse the armed forces of misusing the law, which gives them legal immunity in case of a "collateral damage" during their operations against terrorists and insurgents.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also has been demanding the withdrawal of the Act from the terror-riven state.

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