Extension in Jurisdiction of the BSF

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    In News

    • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) up to 50 km inside the international borders in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.

    About

    • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) claims that recent drone droppings of weapons from across the border have prompted this expansion in the jurisdiction of the BSF.
    • The decision is to extend the BSF’s jurisdiction from 15 km to 50 km inside the international border along with Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. It is meant to:
      • improve operational efficiency
      • crackdown on smuggling rackets
    • But the move triggered furious reactions from Opposition-ruled Punjab and West Bengal, which described it as:
      • an irrational decision, 
      • a direct attack on federalism 
      • an attempt to interfere through Central agencies

    Where is BSF deployed and extended Jurisdiction?

    • The notification outlined the new jurisdiction as “whole of the area comprised in the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and so much of the area comprised within a belt of fifty kilometres in the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India”.

    Image Courtesy: IE

    Border Security Force (BSF)

    • About:
      • It is India’s border guarding force along the borders of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
      • Administrative Control: Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
      • Purpose: It was raised in the wake of the 1965 War on 1 December 1965 as India’s first line of defence for ensuring the security of the borders of India and for matters connected therewith.
      • Deployment: On-Line of Control (LoC) along with Indian Army and in Anti-Naxal Operations.
      • Officials: The BSF has its own cadre of officers but its head, designated as a Director-General (DG), since its raising has been an officer from the Indian Police Service (IPS).
    • Jurisdiction Powers of BSF:
    • Section 139: It empowers the Center to notify from time to time the area and extent of operation of the Border Security Force. 
      • Under the BSF Act, Section 139 (ii) gives sweeping powers of arrest to BSF. 
      • It has powers of preventive arrest under Section 139 (1) & post offence arrest under section 139 (ii)
      • No mention of consultation with local police. 
    • New Notification:
      • As per the new notification, BSF officers will be able to conduct arrests and searches in West Bengal, Punjab, and Assam. 
        • BSF has got the right to take this action under:
          • the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 
          • the Passport Act 1967, and 
          • the Passport (Entry to India) Act 1920.
      • The BSF will have the powers of search, seizure, and arrest under Acts like Passport Act, NDPS Act, and Customs Act.
        • Its jurisdiction under these laws has not been changed, meaning its powers under these will continue to be only up to 15 km inside the border in Punjab, Assam and West Bengal, and will remain as far as 80 km in Gujarat.
      • The new notification also empowers an officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest ranking member of the BSF, 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 cognisable offense, 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.

    Rationale Behind this Move

    • Uniformity & Efficiency: The move is to bring in uniformity and also to increase operational efficiency. 
    • Quick Response: BSF often gets information relating to crime scenes that may be out of their jurisdiction. It is done to make the response swift and effective in such cases.
    • Increasing Incidents on Borders: The move was also necessitated due to increasing instances of drones dropping weapons and drugs in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. 
    • Providing More Powers: BSF’s jurisdiction has not been increased under the Arms Act, Customs Act and NDPS Act, which cover most of the smuggling offences on the border and deal with far greater offences. Separate arrangements are made to make BSF independent in its action.

    Does it really harm the Federal Structure?

    • BSF’s jurisdiction is enhanced but State’ jurisdiction is not curtailed.
    • Also, BSF has only the power to arrest, actual Execution is to be done by the State Police only. It’s not that the local police can’t act within the jurisdiction of the BSF.
    • This move will complement the efforts of the local police. Thus, it is an enabling provision.
    • Borders are being sealed so that drones and drugs should be stopped. It will eventually benefit the State only.
    • When considering the stake of national security, partisan considerations shouldn’t be there. The federal structure was formed so as to provide administrative convenience and not to bring security threats onto the country.

    Way Ahead

    • More & more weapons & drugs are being pushed by Pak-backed terrorists into Punjab. 
    • BSF’s enhanced presence & powers will only make India stronger so there shouldn’t be any dragging of central armed forces into politics.

    Source: IE