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‘Attempt To Weaken Federalism’: Punjab Govt On Centre’s Decision To Extend BSF Jurisdiction

The Centre has empowered BSF to conduct searches, arrest suspects and make seizures up to an area of 50 km inside Indian territory from International Border.

The move to extend BSF's area of jurisdiction might raise administrative and political issues.(Photo: ANI)

Chandigarh: Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa has termed the Centre’s recent decision of allowing more jurisdiction to the Border Security Force (BSF) in border areas as an attempt to ‘weaken the spirit of federalism’. 

“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.

His statement comes after the Centre has empowered the Border Security Force (BSF) to conduct searches, arrest suspects and make seizures up to an area of 50 km inside Indian territory from International Border (IB) along India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh borders.

The move might raise administrative and political issues as the Ministry of Home Affairs has extended the area of jurisdiction of the BSF with a fresh order issued earlier this week allowing its officers to take action to curb illegal activities linked to national security in 10 states and two Union Territories.

In a statement, Randhawa, who also holds the portfolio of Home Affairs said that,  “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 CM further said that he would soon personally call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to resolve this issue.

Meanwhile, Randhawa 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.

Emphasizing the need for excellent cooperation between Central and State agencies, 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.

“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 & 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 in his statement. 

In a move aimed at maintaining “zero tolerance” against terrorism and cross border crimes, the Centre has empowered the Border Security Force (BSF) to conduct searches, arrest suspects and make seizures up to an area of 50 km inside Indian territory from International Border (IB) along India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh borders.

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As per the fresh order, the BSF, which was only empowered to take action up to fifteen kilometres in the states of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, has now been authorised to spread its jurisdiction up to 50 km without any hurdle or further permission either from central or state governments.

However, its jurisdiction has been cut short by 20 km in the five northeastern states– Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya– where it had jurisdiction up to 80 km. Similarly in Gujarat, the BSF’s jurisdiction has been curtailed from 80 to 50 km. In Rajasthan, the BSF’s area of jurisdiction will remain the same at 50 km.

An officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest rank of member of the BSF is now empowered under the CrPC to exercise and discharge the powers and duties without an order from a Magistrate and without a warrant.

The officer is now empowered to arrest any person who has been concerned in any cognizable offence, or against whom a reasonable complaint has been made, or credible information has been received. A BSF officer has now been given the power to conduct a search of a place entered by a person sought to be arrested in its new area of jurisdiction.

ALSO READ: NIA Arrests 9 Terror Associates After Multiple Raids In J&K

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