The Border Security Force (BSF) is at the center of the latest tussle between the Center vs. Narendra Modi The government extended the powers of the force to allow officers, like their police counterparts, to conduct searches, seizures and arrests over 50 km in Punjab, Bengal and Assam. Earlier, the jurisdictional limit for BSF in these states was 15 kms. The home ministry said the decision was to “improve operational efficiency” and “crack down on smuggling rackets”, but the move irked the states, with Punjab calling it a “direct attack on federalism”.
Here’s what you need to know about the move and why it started a line:
In a gazette notification, the ministry said it is amending an earlier 2014 notification on the jurisdiction of the BSF to exercise its powers in the states where it guards the international border.
It outlined the new jurisdiction as “the entire area comprising the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and much of the territory comprising the States within a belt of fifty kilometers”. Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India.
What did the rule say earlier?
An earlier notification dated July 3, 2014 had outlined the jurisdiction of the BSF as “the entire area comprising the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and the area included within a belt of eighty kilometers in the State. Gujarat, fifty kilometers in the state of Rajasthan and fifteen kilometers in the states of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India”.
A Union Home Ministry official said the changes were made under the Border Security Force Act 1968 following suggestions from the BSF and also aimed at keeping the operational jurisdiction of the force uniform across these states.
Why are the states protesting?
The move has not gone down well with Punjab and Assam, both of whom have called it an attack on federalism. Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi has condemned the 35-km hike in Punjab, which is a border state, terming the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as “irrational”.
He tweeted: “I strongly condemn the unilateral decision of the Government of India to give additional powers to the BSF within 50 km radius running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on federalism. I urge Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately withdraw this irrational decision.”
Channi had met Home Minister Amit Shah on October 5 and urged him to “seal” the international border with Punjab to stop smuggling of drugs and weapons from Pakistan into the state. A week later, on 11 October, the MHA increased the BSF’s jurisdiction to search, seize and arrest deep inside the state bordering West Bengal and Assam.
West Bengal Transport Minister and TMC leader Firhad Hakim said: “The central government is violating the federal structure of the country. Law and order is a state subject but the central government is trying to intervene through central agencies.”
Congress MP Manish Tewari tweeted that the Centre’s decision “violates constitutional public order and state police exemptions” and that “half of Punjab will now come under the jurisdiction of the BSF”.
He explained that under the BSF Act, “Section 139(ii) gives broad powers of arrest to the BSF. It has powers to make preventive arrest under section 139(1) and arrest after offense under 139(ii). Local police There is no mention of consultation with D.O.. The plan of the Act and its implementation mechanism needs to be studied.”
Does BSF have anything to say?
The Border Security Force (BSF) on Wednesday clarified that the move has been taken to “give uniformity in jurisdiction”.
The BSF said, “The amendment, effective October 11, 2021, establishes uniformity in defining the area within which the Border Security Force may operate in accordance with its charter of duties and its role of border security in its areas of deployment and can perform the task.”
“This will enable better operational effectiveness in preventing cross-border crime and within the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam running along India’s borders up to 50 km from the international border. Earlier, this limit was fixed at 80 km in case of Gujarat and 15 km in case of Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam,” the BSF said in a press release.
The officials also told News18 that the BSF did not have the authority to investigate and had to hand over the suspect/accused to the local authorities. He said that arrest by BSF would be applicable for limited offenses as per Code of Criminal Procedure. BSF cannot indulge in any criminal act other than those related to NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act, arms and ammunition.