Border Security Force (BSF) officials will now have the power to make arrests, searches and seizures up to 50 km between the three new states that share international borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Home Ministry (MHA) has claimed that the recent drone dropping of weapons across the border has prompted the expansion under the jurisdiction of the BSF.
However, the move is rapidly snowing into a debate over state autonomy. The Punjab Chief Minister has already protested against it.
“I strongly condemn the government’s unilateral decision to give additional powers to the BSF within the 50-kilometer belt running along the international border, which is a direct attack on federalism. I urge Union Home Minister Amit Shah to immediately reverse this unreasonable decision,” Charanjit Singh Channy tweeted.
I strongly condemn the unilateral decision of the Government of India to give additional powers to the BSF within the 50-kilometer belt running along the international border, which is a direct attack on federalism. I call on the Union Home Minister Mit Amit Shah Withdraw this unreasonable decision immediately.
– Charanjit S Channi (AR CHARANJITCHANNI) October 13, 2021Advertisement
The MHA claims that the decision was taken to stop illegal activities related to national security in 10 states and two union territories, but it could also raise administrative and political issues.
“This is a very politically sensitive move. The main goal of the BSF is to protect the border and stop infiltration. Recent events have shown that they are not able to guard the designated line.”
According to him, it could lead to regular clashes with local police and villagers when searched and seized. “Their operational responsibilities are in the vicinity of the border outpost but with this new capability they will also work well within the jurisdiction of some states,” he said.
“If we have intelligence on any matter, we don’t have to wait for the local police to respond and we can take preventive measures,” said a senior BSF official.
According to the new notification, BSF officers will be able to search and arrest a wide area in West Bengal, Punjab and Assam. The BSF has the right to take such action under the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC), the Passport Act and the Passport (Entry to India) Act.
In Assam, West Bengal and Punjab, the BSF has the same search and arrest powers as the state police.
The MHA has authorized raids and arrests up to 50 km from the International Border (IB) along the India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh territory. Previously, this range was 15 km. In addition, the BSF will be able to search and arrest in Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur and Ladakh.
However, with this, the BSF’s jurisdiction in Gujarat has been reduced and the border has been reduced from 80 km to 50 km to bring uniformity, while the radius area in Rajasthan has been kept at 50 km as before.
No boundaries have been demarcated for the five northeastern states of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur. In addition, no borders have been demarcated in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Officials claim that the BSF is in charge of internal security in these states so they act accordingly.
The new circular empowers an officer of the rank of lowest rank member of the BSF under the CRPC to perform powers and duties without a magistrate’s order and without a warrant.
Officers are now empowered to arrest any person who is concerned about a cognizable offense, or against whom a reasonable charge has been made, or credible information has been obtained. A BSF officer is now empowered to search the entry area of a person wanted to be arrested in a new area of his jurisdiction.
Section 139 of the Border Security Force Act, 1968 gives the Center the power to inform the Center from time to time of the scope and scope of activities of the Border Security Force. The Union Home Ministry has issued a notification changing the ‘schedule’ of the border area, where the BSF will have the power to search, seize and arrest under laws such as the Passport Act, the NDPS Act and the Customs Act.