Centre Passes Order to Enhance Powers of BSF; Punjab Government calls it an Attack on Federalism

The Central government has increased the powers of the Border Security Force 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 within 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 northeastern 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, divided into two Union Territories- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in August 2019. However, mention of 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.

However, after the detainment of the suspect and seizure of consignment within the specified area, the BSF can only conduct ‘preliminary questioning’ and later has to hand him over to the local police within 24 hours.

Punjab’s Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi called the move an attack on the nation’s federal structure. 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 roll back this irrational decision immediately.”

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, in the capacity of Gujarat’s Chief Minister, Narendra Modi wrote to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opposing the centre’s proposed move to provide broad powers to Central Armed forces can search and arrest anyone in any part of the nation.