The powers of Border Security Force have been increased by the Central government by allowing them to “arrest, search and seize” within 50 km from the international boundaries of Assam, Punjab and West Bengal. According to the notification published in the Gazette of India, such powers of BSF will also be applied in the freshly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Earlier the BSF was limited to carry out such activities withing 80 km from the international border in Gujarat and within 15 km in Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
The 2014 order under the BSF Act,1968 also included the north-eastern states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. However, now the order will be replaced by that of October 11,2021.
The 2014 order didn’t include the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, which was divided into two Union Territories- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in August 2019. However, mention to it could be found in a previous amendment of 1973. But the recent order specifically includes both the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
A BSF official said the amendment “establishes uniformity in defining the area within which the BSF can operate.” BSF carries out search and seizures for violations such as smuggling of prohibited items and narcotics, illegal immigrants and other punishable offences under any Central Act.
However after the the detainment of suspect and seizure of consignment within the specified area, the BSF can only conduct ‘preliminary questioning’ and later has to hand over him to the local police within 24 hours.
Punjab’s Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi called the move as an attack on the fereal structure of the nation. He tweeted, “I strongly condemn the GoI’s [Government of India’s] unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 KM belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately rollback this irrational decision.”
Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa called the decision “illogical.”
Shiromani Akali Dal also saw the decision as,“the imposition of the President’s rule through the back door in nearly half of Punjab. This virtually turns the State into a de facto Union Territory. This devious attempt to place the State directly under the Central rule must and will be opposed,” said former Minister Daljit Singh Cheema.No reaction has been received from the West Bengal government yet.
In 2012, Narendra Modi, in the capacity of Gujarat’s Chief Minister wrote to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opposing the centre’s proposed move to provide wide powers to Central Armed forces, so that they can search and arrest anyone in any part of the nation.