Home Jurisdiction Let the Border Security Force do its job

Let the Border Security Force do its job

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The Home Office recently issued a notice extending the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force from 15 km to a depth of 50 km along international borders in three states – Punjab, Assam and West Bengal. This led to a new round of controversies involving the Center and the States. The Punjab’s chief minister condemned what he called the Indian government’s “unilateral decision” to grant additional powers to the BSF as a “direct attack on federalism”.

Let us first understand the facts in order to be able to assess the necessity and the correctness of the government’s decree. The latest notification from the MHA (July 3, 2014), which defined the jurisdiction of the BSF, indicated that the force could operate in all of the states of Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya without any restrictions. In Gujarat it had jurisdiction up to a depth of 80 km and in Rajasthan up to 50 km. In Punjab, Assam and West Bengal, the jurisdiction of the BSF only extended to a depth of 15 km. According to the latest notification released on October 11, 2021, there is no change in the northeastern states and Rajasthan. In Gujarat, jurisdiction has been reduced from 80 km to 50 km. The controversial change is in Assam, West Bengal and Punjab, where BSF jurisdiction has been extended from 15 km to 50 km. It was this part of the notification that sparked controversy, although criticism was leveled by leaders in Punjab and West Bengal, both ruled by non-BJP parties.

Assam, West Bengal and Punjab have international borders. The perception of the threat across international borders has undergone a radical change in the context of recent developments in the Af-Pak region. Radical groups of different shades feel emboldened and will make a determined attempt to destabilize the Punjab, where there have been several attempts to drop weapons from drones. The seizure of 3000 kg of heroin from Afghanistan on September 12 and the murder of five soldiers in Surankote (Jammu and Kashmir) on October 11 are straw in the wind. Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups, especially Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, will almost certainly repeat their attack in border states. West Bengal has already experienced a huge demographic change, thanks to the accommodating attitude of its rulers towards illegal migrants. Assam faces multiple problems of ethnic insurgency, smuggling, counterfeiting of currency, drug trafficking, etc.

Under normal circumstances, state police in border states should have been able to deal with these issues. However, police across the country are in a state of atrophy and they need the help of even central armed police forces to maintain law and order. As such, their effectiveness against emerging cross-border threats is suspect.

It is in this context that the Indian government decided to extend the jurisdiction of the BSF to three states. Interestingly, the former Chief Minister of the Punjab, Amarinder Singh, endorsed the Center’s decision following incidents of arms and drugs being introduced into the Punjab by Pak-backed unions. The Chief Minister of Assam also welcomed the extension of the BSF’s competence.

The latest notification from the Ministry of the Interior is aimed solely at building the capacity of the state police to secure states under Article 139 of the BSF Act, which empowers members of the force to carry out certain powers and duties within the local limits of the areas specified in the annex. . The competence of the state police was neither restricted nor its powers reduced in any way. It is just that the BSF will also exercise search, seizure and arrest powers with respect only to the Passport Act of 1967, the Passport (Entry into India) Act of 1920 and certain sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in other words against those entering India. illegally. It is simply an “enabling provision to strengthen and complement the efforts of state policing.” The BSF would in any event hand over the accused and the contraband seized to the local police. The power to register the FIR and investigate the case rests with the state police. To say that half of the Punjab will now fall under the jurisdiction of the BSF is an extremely misleading statement intended to arouse passions and generate anti-center sentiments.

The hypocrisy of the opposition is further exposed by the fact that in 2011 the UPA tabled a bill giving the BSF the power to search, seize and arrest in any part of the country where it was. deployed. It had to be abandoned in the face of concerted opposition to the proposed measure.

The Indian Constitution undoubtedly fulfills certain conditions of a federation, but it leans towards a strong Center. As Sir Ivor Jennings said, “India has a federation with a strong centralizing tendency”. In federations where police and public order are the responsibility of states (as in India), according to Rajeev Dhawan, “the Union can design emergency regimes in its Constitution through legislation to override the law. ‘exclusive autonomy of states in matters of law and order and politics. “National security is a primary consideration. It is unfortunate that the BSF is drawn into a political controversy when it is in fact scrambling to strengthen national security .

The writer was previously Director General of the Border Security Force


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