Search, Arrest, Seize: What More Powers To BSF In Assam, Bengal, Punjab Mean

The move to give more powers to the BSF was necessitated after incidents of dropping of weapons through drones from across the border.

Update: 2021-10-14 11:33 GMT

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has given additional power to the Border Security Force (BSF) operating in three states adjacent to the international borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The area of jurisdiction for the  BSF now has been increased to 50kms from the international border in Assam, Punjab and Bengal.

The area under BSF's control earlier was 15kms from the borders.  

Why Was The Jurisdiction Increased?

The move to give additional powers to the BSF, according to the MHA, was necessitated after recent incidents of dropping of weapons through drones from across the border. The BSF personnel will also have the right to take action under Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the Passport Act, and the Passport (Entry to India) Act.

On Monday, the MHA issued a gazette notification, which said it was amending the 2014 notification pertaining to the jurisdiction of BSF and its authority in states that it guards along the international border.

The BSF, just like the state police, will have the right to search and arrest in Assam, West Bengal, and Punjab.

What is the Jurisdiction in Other States Along Borders?

In Rajasthan, the area under BSF control is 50kms and has not been changed. However, in Gujarat, the area under BSF's jurisdiction has been reduced from 80kms to 50kms 'to bring uniformity'.  In Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, no such boundaries have been specified.  The MHA officials have said the changes were made in accordance with the suggestions from the BSF and also to maintain a uniformity in BSF's areas of jurisdiction.  

What Powers Does BSF Have?

According to  the new notification, an officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest ranking member of the BSF, under the CrPC, has the power to exercise and discharge the duties without an order from a Magistrate. The officer will have the power to arrest any person found involved in any cognisable offense. The person can also be arrested over a complaint or credible information. Under its area of jurisdiction, the BSF can also carry out search operations where the person under question might be present.

Why Are States Opposed to the Move?

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi expressed his opposition to the move to increase areas under BSF's jurisdiction and called it an attack on federalism. He demanded immediate rollback of the move.  "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 federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately rollback this irrational decision (sic)," he said in a tweet.  

Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said this is an attempt to weaken the state government. "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," he said.  

Similarly, Bengal's ruling party TMC also opposed the move for 'interfering' in state affairs.  "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 interfere through central agencies," TMC's Firhad Hakim said.  

The Congress too joined the chorus. "MHA Notification enhancing operational mandate of BSF,15 to 50 KM's in Punjab,West Bengal &Assam transgresses upon Constitutional Public order & Policing remit of States Half of Punjab will now fall under BSF jurisdiction," Congress MP Manish Tiwari said in a tweet. 

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