Centre extends BSF jurisdiction in West Bengal, Punjab, Assam; 'attack on federalism', says Charanjit Channi
The MHA in its notification said the border guarding force has been granted permission to conduct raids and arrests up to an area of 50 km inside from the International Border (IB) along India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh borders
The Centre on Wednesday issued a notification increasing the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) to give its officers the powers of arrest, search and seizure to the extent of 50 kilometres from the borders inside the bordering states of Punjab, West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura.
According to an official notification, which has been issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), BSF is now authorised to take action under CrPC, Passport Act and Passport (Entry to India) Act.
The MHA in its notification said the border guarding force has been granted permission to conduct raids and arrests up to an area of 50 km inside from the International Border (IB) along India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh borders.
The notice also said: "The amendment effected on 11 October, 2021 establishes uniformity in defining the area within which Border Security Force can operate as per its charter of duties and execution of its role and task of border guarding in its areas of deployment. This will also enable improved operational effectiveness in curbing trans-border crime."
Earlier, in accordance with Section 139 of the Border Security Force Act 1968, it was a 15 km belt.
According to Economic Times, this is significant since now the BSF can now make arrests, carry out searches and seize materials in these areas, as well. This is similar to the duties of the state police.
What other changes have been made?
Apart from this, BSF will also be able to search and arrest in Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur and Ladakh.
However, along with this, the jurisdiction of BSF in Gujarat has been reduced and the extent of the border has been reduced from 80 km to 50 km, while in Rajasthan the radius area has been kept 50 km as before.
'Direct attack on federalism'
Meanwhile, Punjab chief minister Charanjit Channi took to social media to condemn the government's decision.
"I strongly condemn the GoI's unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 KM belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism," he tweeted.
I strongly condemn the GoI's unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 KM belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately rollback this irrational decision.
— Charanjit S Channi (@CHARANJITCHANNI) October 13, 2021
Channi on 5 October met home minister Amit Shah at the latter's residence in New Delhi in wake of the violence in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri in which four people lost their lives including four farmers.
Deputy Chief Minister S Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa also issued a statement criticising the Centre's move and asked Shah to withdraw the decision.
In a statement, Randhawa, who also holds the portfolio of Home Affair, said this "illogical decision" was absolutely against the spirit of the raising of border guarding forces, which are required to focus on the international border and act as the first line of defence.
He said that policing in the hinterland is not the role of a border guarding force, rather it would weaken the capacity of the Border Security Force in discharging its primary duty of guarding the international border.
The deputy chief minister further said that he would soon personally call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to resolve this issue.
Randhawa further categorically said that Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi has neither raised this issue with the Centre nor asked for enhancing the jurisdiction of BSF along with the international border.
Randhawa said that such coordination must be enhanced with information sharing for taking prompt action to resist illegal activities. He further said that joint operations against drugs and terrorist modules have been successfully conducted between the BSF and Punjab Police in the past besides mechanisms for information sharing and coordination are already in place.
"There are no justifiable reasons for unilaterally changing the existing arrangements by the Government of India, except to weaken the state government and the spirit of federalism," asserted the Deputy CM.
"The above notification by the Central Government, without obtaining the concurrence of state government amounts to encroachment upon the powers and roles of states by the Centre. The Union, State and Concurrent Lists specify the subjects under the domain of the Centre and the States. Police and law and order are subjects under the state list and are looked after by the states. By conferring powers of police officers upon BSF officers without consulting state governments or obtaining their concurrence, the Central Government is attempting to distort the federal structure of the Constitution," added Deputy CM.
With inputs from PTI
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