New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: A political controversy erupted after the Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday extended the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) in the border states including Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. As per the new order by MHA, dated October 11, BSF officials can now search, seize and arrest, at par with their police counterparts, 50 km into these three states. Prior to this, the jurisdiction of BSF was 15 kilometres.

The decision by the MHA doesn't go down well with the Punjab Congress unit, which called the decision an attack on federalism. Condemning the move to increase the powers of the BSF in the border states, Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi called the move irrational and appealed to the Minister of Home Affairs, Amit Shah, to immediately roll back its orders.

"I strongly condemn the GoI's unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within the 50 km belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately roll back this irrational decision," tweeted Channi.

Punjab Home 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. By conferring powers of police officers upon BSF (Border Security Force) officers without consulting State Govts or obtaining their concurrence, the Centre is attempting to distort the federal structure of the Constitution", Randhawa said as quoted by ANI.

BSF's clarification on MHA's new order:

Meanwhile, amid the backlash, the BSF yesterday clarified the MHA's decision and said that the step has been taken to give uniformity to jurisdiction. “The amendment effected on October 11, 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 and to an extent of 50 km from the international boundary within the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India. Earlier, the limit was fixed to 80 km in case of Gujarat and 15 km in case of Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam," BSF said in a press release.

What is MHA's new order extending the powers of BSF?

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

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.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan