BSF – Change in Jurisdiction

Ministry of Home Affairs has modified areas of jurisdiction for Border Security Force to exercise its powers in the states bordering Pakistan, Bangladesh.

Amended Jurisdiction of BSF

BSF’s jurisdiction now comprises, whole area in  Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya along Bangladesh border. Whole area of UT of J&K and Ladakh.Area within a belt of 50 km in States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along borders of India.The new changes have increased area of jurisdiction of BSF in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam to 50 km from existing 15 km, while has reduced area in Gujarat to 50 km from existing 80 km. There is no change in jurisdiction of BSF in north-eastern states and UTs of J&K and Ladakh.

Rationale Behind Modification

  • Based on new security concerns because of Taliban’s takeover Afghanistan.
  • Fear of heightened incidents of cross-border terrorism in future.
  • Rise in terrorist attacks in J&K as well as an increase in incidents of arms being dropped by Pakistani drones in Punjab.
  • Concerns regarding illegal migration, cattle smuggling, trafficking in person, narcotics and smuggling in fake Indian currency note (FICN) along Bangladesh border.
  • With increase in operational limits, BSF will be able to conduct raids and make arrests deep inside the state.
  • Use of Drones by terrorist groups allows trafficking of drugs and arms deep inside Indian territory.

Changes in power of BSF

  • Empowers BSF to search, seize and arrest only in respect to Passport Act, 1967, Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and specified sections of CrPC in the extended area of its jurisdiction.
  • BSF’s powers and duties regarding other central acts such as Customs Act, Central Excise and Salt Act, Narcotics and Psychotropic (NDPS) Act, Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947, etc., do not apply to extended area of jurisdiction and remain same as earlier, that is, 15 km for Punjab, West Bengal and Assam and 80 km for Gujarat.
  • Does not provide BSF power to investigate and prosecute, which implies that BSF still must hand arrested person and seized consignment over to State Police within 24 hours after minimal questioning.

Issues raised by States against the changes

  • Some States like Assam have welcomed the changes, others like Punjab & West Bengal have raised concerns about infringement of rights of state and is seen as affecting the Federal structure.
  • Since law and order is state subject, extension of policing powers with increased jurisdiction is seen as usurpation of rights of States.
  • States like Punjab have argued that notification has been brought without due consultation with State government.

Policing Powers

  • The extension in jurisdiction has been done with the purpose of bringing uniformity in securing the border areas.
  • Delegation of police powers has been done to the BSF in the past – 1969, 1973 and 2014.
  • These powers were considered essential in view of circumstances like the terrain, population composition, crime pattern besides presence and effectiveness of the police in border areas.
  • However, issues faced by states vary and as such one size fits all approach does not reflect ground reality.

State Specific Issues

Rajasthan and Gujarat

Have a low population density and absence of any population centres to a large distance from border and limited police presence—necessarily required that police powers delegated to the BSF be larger in these two states.

West Bengal, Punjab, Assam

  • These states have much higher population density and a stronger police presence and better infrastructure.
  • In the interior areas, the police have a better presence and effectiveness.
  • Enhancement of jurisdiction in these three states to 50-km border belt may lead to confusion unless close coordination with the police is not ensured.
  • On many occasions, close coordination may not even be feasible, especially in the case of hot pursuit because of necessity of swiftness and secrecy.
  • Lack of coordination may lead to tussles because the concurrent jurisdiction of two forces, controlled by two different governments may lead to turf wars, especially if the ruling parties in the state and centre are different.
  • Core function of BSF will get adversely effected by enhancement of jurisdiction as troops deployed on Border Outposts (BOPs) will have to be withdrawn for operations in depth. Might leave borders vulnerable.

Way Forward

  • New threats of tunnels & drones should be addressed by augmenting capabilities of BSF through induction of technology to detect these at borders itself.
  • Police is better equipped to handle drones landing in interior areas away from borders because of vicinity to the sites.
  • Strengthening BSF intelligence wing through induction of technology and focused tasking to collect information about trans-border criminals.
  • Collection of intelligence in an area as large as 50 km from border in densely populated states can be better coordinated by state and central intelligence agencies and acted upon by the local police.
  • BSF is better trained for border guarding rather than policing functions.
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