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India: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and the Armed Forces
Country Study > Chapter 10 > National Security > Public Order and Internal Security > Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and the Armed Forces


In response to a range of insurgencies since the early 1980s, the central government has enacted an extensive array of legislation that places substantial curbs on civil liberties. The National Security Act of 1980, the National Security Amendment Act of 1984, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act of 1985 (which was renewed in 1987 and suspended in 1995), and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act of 1990 are the most significant laws in force. The ramifications of these four laws are sweeping. Under their aegis, the central government has the right of preventive detention, may seek in-camera trials, may send accused individuals before designated courts, and may destroy property belonging to suspected terrorists. Furthermore, under the terms of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, members of the armed forces cannot be prosecuted for actions committed in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this law.

During the 1980s and 1990s, both international and domestic human rights groups asserted that human rights violations are rampant. The principal international organizations making these allegations are the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and Asia Watch. Two Indian counterparts are the People's Union for Civil Liberties and the People's United Democratic Front. Indian and foreign press reports have alleged that local police and paramilitary forces have engaged in rape, torture, and beatings of suspects in police custody. Numerous "militants" reportedly have simply disappeared in Jammu and Kashmir. On other occasions, especially in Punjab, security forces on various occasions allegedly captured insurgents and then shot them in staged "encounters" or "escapes." The government has either vigorously challenged these allegations or asserted that condign punishment had been meted out against offenders. The government has made efforts to blunt the barrage of domestic and foreign criticism. One such effort was the establishment of the five-member National Human Rights Commission in 1993 composed of senior retired judges. A report released by the commission in November 1993 cited eighty Bombay police officials for "atrocities, ill treatment, collusion, and connivance" and for "being openly on the side of the Hindu aggressors" during the December 1992 Hindu-Muslim riots. The commission's mandate does not extend to violations in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast India, and it must rely on state investigative agencies for its field work.

Last Updated: September 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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