From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : BSF's Jurisdiction
Mains level : Read the attached story
- In October 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs made a significant move by extending the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) in certain states, leading to a legal dispute between the central government and the affected states.
- This article examines the recent developments and the key issues surrounding the expansion of BSF’s jurisdiction.
Expansion of BSF Jurisdiction
- Border Security Force (BSF): The BSF is India’s border guarding organization, tasked with securing the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. It operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- Notification: The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification in October 2021, expanding the BSF’s jurisdiction in specific states.
- Changes in Jurisdiction:
- In Punjab, West Bengal, and Assam, the BSF’s jurisdiction was extended from 15 km to 50 km inland from the border.
- In Gujarat, the jurisdiction was reduced from 80 km to 50 km.
- Rajasthan’s jurisdiction remained unchanged at 50 km.
- Border Security Force Act: The Ministry of Home Affairs invoked the Border Security Force Act of 1968 to delineate the BSF’s jurisdiction.
- Powers Exercised: The BSF’s jurisdiction extension applies only to specific powers granted under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and Passport Act, 1967.
Rationale behind BSF’s Jurisdiction Expansion
- Historical Context: The BSF was established in 1965 to secure India’s borders. At that time, border regions were sparsely populated, and police stations were scarce.
- Trans-Border Crimes: To combat trans-border crimes effectively, the BSF was empowered to arrest and search individuals within its jurisdiction.
- Manpower Constraints: Despite the establishment of police stations near the border, staffing remained inadequate.
Issues Surrounding Border Regions
- Challenges at Borders:
- Illegal incursion
- Drug and cattle smuggling
- Complementary Role: Expanding BSF’s jurisdiction was intended to complement the efforts of local police, enhancing cooperative measures rather than displacing state police authority.
Criticisms and Legal Challenges
- Federalism Concerns: States argued that the extension of BSF’s jurisdiction encroached upon their powers related to police and public order, asserting their rights under the Constitution.
- Lack of Consultation: The states also contended that the central government issued the notification without consulting the affected states.
- Original Suit: The state of Punjab filed an ‘original suit’ against the central government in the Supreme Court under Article 131 of the Constitution, which grants the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction over disputes between the central government and states.
- Approach: Punjab argued that the expansion compromised its legislative authority on policing matters and public order, emphasizing that a significant portion of its cities and towns would now fall within the 50-kilometre jurisdiction.
Ongoing Legal Battle
- Exclusive Challenge: While West Bengal initially expressed opposition to the notification, currently, only Punjab’s challenge is tagged with the Supreme Court.
- Key Considerations: The Supreme Court will assess the validity of the notification, examining whether it was arbitrary or backed by legitimate reasons. It will also weigh the impact on states’ powers under the Constitution and determine if uniformity is required in setting local limits for BSF’s jurisdiction.
- The legal battle between the central government and the states over the expansion of BSF’s jurisdiction highlights the complex interplay between federalism, national security, and law enforcement.
- The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching implications for the distribution of powers between the center and the states in matters related to border security and policing.