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Internal Security

Extending BSF Jurisdiction

  • 04 Dec 2023
  • 9 min read

For Prelims: Border Security Force (BSF), Chief Justice of India, Passports Act,1967, Indian Penal Code (IPC), Ministry of Home Affairs, Supreme Court.

For Mains: Impact of extending the Border Security Force’s jurisdiction on the federal structure and also the internal security of the country.

Source: IE

Why in News?

Recently, the Supreme Court clarified that the Centre's notification of 2021, which expands the Border Security Force's (BSF’s) jurisdiction in Punjab from 15 to 50 km, only grants the BSF the authority to act concurrently in preventing specific offenses within these limits and it does not diminish the investigative authority of the state police.

  • In 2021, the Punjab government moved the Supreme Court challenging the Centre's decision that expanded the BSF's jurisdiction.

What is the Centre's Notification About Extending BSF’s Jurisdiction?

  • About :
    • The notification replaced a 2014 order under the BSF Act,1968, which also covered the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya.
      • It also specifically mentioned the two newly created Union Territories- J&K and Ladakh along with Assam, West Bengal and Punjab.
    • The violations for which the BSF carries out search and seizure include smuggling of narcotics, other prohibited items, illegal entry of foreigners and offences punishable under any other Central Act among others.
    • After a suspect has been detained or a consignment seized within the specified area, the BSF can only conduct “preliminary questioning” and has to hand over the suspect to the local police within 24 hours.
      • The BSF does not have the powers to prosecute crime suspects.
  • Special Powers of BSF:
    • In all border states, there is a power under the BSF Act,1968 to extend the jurisdiction of BSF so far as offences are considered. Since 1969, Gujarat has had 80 kms. In some states it was less. Now it is uniform 50 kms. And that would merely mean that with regard to some offences under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Passport Act, 1967 etc, BSF will also have jurisdiction.
      • Local police will continue to have jurisdiction. BSF is also concurrently conferred with the jurisdiction.

What are the Different Issues Involved in the Extension of Jurisdiction?

  • Larger Issues:
    • Public Order vs Security of State: Public order and Police which connotes public peace, safety and tranquility, is primarily the responsibility of a State Government (Entry 1 and Entry 2 of State list respectively).
      • However, when there is a serious public disorder which threatens the security or defence of the State or of the country itself (entry 1 of Union list), the situation becomes a matter of concern for the Union Government also.
    • Weakening Spirit of Federalism: Without obtaining the concurrence of the state government, the notification amounts to encroachment on the powers of the states.
      • The Punjab Government has asserted that this notification is Centre’s encroachment under the guise of security or development.
    • Affecting Functioning of BSF: Policing in the hinterland is not the role of a border guarding force, rather it would weaken the capacity of the BSF in discharging its primary duty of guarding the international border.
  • Issues Specific to Punjab:
    • For 50 km, they have the concurrent power along with the state police to exercise every power over every cognisable offence under Indian Penal Code (IPC).
    • When extended from 15 to 50 in a relatively small state like Punjab, all the major cities come under that.
      • So far as other states are considered — Gujarat and Rajasthan — Gujarat has marsh land in a substantial portion. There it can be reasonable to extend it because no major urban centres come within it. Similarly in Rajasthan, there is desert.

Constitutional Viewpoint on Deployment of Armed forces in States

  • Under Article 355, the Centre can deploy its forces to protect a state against “external aggression and internal disturbance,” even when the state concerned does not requisition the Centre’s assistance and is reluctant to receive central forces.
  • In the case of a state’s opposition to the deployment of armed forces of the Union, the right course for the Centre is to first issue directives under Article 355 to the state concerned.
  • In the event of the state not complying with the directive of the Central government, the Centre can take further action under Article 356 (President’s Rule).

What is BSF?

  • The BSF was raised in 1965, after the India-Pakistan war.
  • It is one of the seven Central Armed Police Forces of the Union of India under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
    • Other Central Armed Police Forces are: Assam Rifles (AR), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), National Security Guards (NSG) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
  • The 2.65-lakh force is deployed along the Pakistan and Bangladesh borders.
  • BSF has been defending Sir Creek in Arabian Sea and Sundarban delta in the Bay of Bengal with its state of art fleet of Water Crafts.
  • It contributes dedicated services to the UN peacekeeping Mission by sending a large contingent of its trained manpower every year.

Way Forward

  • Consent of State is Desirable: Given the security condition in India's neighbourhood, the existing relationship between the Union armed forces and the State civil authorities do not require any change.
    • However, before the Union Government deploys its armed forces, it is desirable that the State Government should be consulted, wherever feasible.
  • State Becoming Self-Reliant: Each State Government may work out, in consultation with the Union Government, short term and long-term arrangements for strengthening its Armed Police.
    • The objective will be to become largely self-reliant in the matter of Armed Police so that the assistance of the Union armed forces will be necessary only in cases of very severe disturbances.
  • Regional Arrangement: A group of neighbouring States may, by consensus, have a standing arrangement for the use of the Armed Police of one another in case of need.
    • The Zonal Council would be the best forum for achieving consensus of the States within a zone for devising such an arrangement.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Prelims

Q. Department of Border Management is a Department of which one of the following Union Ministries? (2008)

(a) Ministry of Defence
(b) Ministry of Home Affairs
(c) Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways
(d) Ministry of Environment and Forests

Ans: (b)


Mains

Q1: Analyze the multidimensional challenges posed by external state and non-state actors, to the internal security of India. Also discuss measures required to be taken to combat these threats. (2021)

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