India extends BSF jurisdiction to 50km inside international border
Indian Border Security Force's jurisdiction of operation has been extended from 15km to 50km inside the international border and its officers have been given the power to arrest and seize in the three border states of West Bengal, Assam and Punjab in a bid to crack down on smuggling including that of narcotics.
However, the move by the Indian Home Ministry, which controls the BSF, has sparked a sharp response from Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal and Congress-governed Punjab which described it as a "direct attack on federalism" and an attempt to "interfere through Central agencies".
In a gazette notification issued on Monday, the home ministry said it was amending an earlier notification of 2014 on jurisdiction of the BSF to exercise its powers in states where it guards the international border.
The 2014 notification had allowed the BSF's jurisdiction in the "whole of the area" comprising the north-eastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and federally-administered territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The latest notification empowers the BSF to take this action under Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), Passport Act and Passport (Entry to India) Act, Customs Act and anti-drug trafficking law, like the police in the states concerned, our New Delhi correspondent reports quoting ministry source.
Interestingly, the jurisdiction of the BSF in BJP-ruled Gujarat, also a border state and home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, has been curtailed by the new notification and the extent of the border reduced from 80km to 50km, while in Rajasthan the radius area has been retained at 50km.
Last Monday's notification does not mention any limit for the BSF in Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Section 139 of the Border Security Force Act, 1968 empowers the Indian government to notify from time to time the area and extent of operation of the Border Security Force.
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi tweeted: "I strongly condemn the GoI's (Govt of India) unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 km belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately rollback this irrational decision."
West Bengal Transport Minister and TMC leader Firhad Hakim said, "the Central government is violating the federal structure of the country. Law and order is a state subject but the central government is trying to interfere through central agencies."
Punjab state Home Minister and Congress leader Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa compared the move to the imposition of "internal emergency".