Navjot Sidhu says MHA's recent notification on BSF weakens federal structure

Ruling parties of Punjab, Bengal have criticised the decision, say it impinges upon their states policing powers

Tribune Web Desk
Chandigarh, October 25

Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu claimed that Union Home Ministry’s recent decision to empower Border Security Force to conduct raids and arrests up to 50 km from the International Border in Punjab amounts to an assault on the country’s federal structure.

Navjot Singh Sidhu. Tribune file photo

Sidhu was reacting to the central government’s notification to extend BSF’s powers up in not only Punjab but also in West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura. The decision was taken two weeks ago and has since drawn concerns and criticism from opposition parties over what they see as an attempt to undermine states’ police powers.  

“Centre is weakening country’s federal structure, by creating “a State within a State” BSF means Border Security Force, What is definition of border? 50 Kms? Public order, which connotes public peace & safety is primarily the responsibility of State Govt,” he said in his tweet on Monday.

A second tweet hours later said: "People of Punjab demand parties to collectively stand against unconstitutional actions of Centre that demean State’s executive/legislature using all resources at disposal be it persuasive powers of Vidhan Sabha & parliament, go to Courts leading a Satyagraha to reclaim our Rights".

The notification by the central government said BSF is now authorised to take action under CrPC, Passport Act, and Passport (Entry to India) Act and extended its powers to 50 km up from 15 km previously. The same notification reduced BSF’s purview in Gujarat to 50 km from 80 km previously.  

Apart from this, BSF will also be able to search and arrest in Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, and Ladakh, it said.

Section 139 of the Border Security Force Act, 1968, empowers the Centre to notify the area and extent of the border force’s operational mandate, from time to time.

In the notification, MHA said: “The central government has revised the ‘Schedule’ specifying the border stretch where BSF would have powers of search, seizure and arrest under Acts like Passport Act, NDPS Act, Customs Act as well as Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya; UTs of J&K and Ladakh; and 50 km-belt in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bengal and Assam”.

An officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest rank of member of the BSF is now empowered under the CrPC to exercise and discharge the powers and duties without an order from a Magistrate and without a warrant.

Punjab’s Congress government voiced its strong opposition to the notification. West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress government under Mamata Banerjee has claimed that the decision was taken unilaterally without consulting the state government.

“I strongly condemn the GoI’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 Chief Minister Charanjit Channi had said.

“We oppose this decision. This is an infringement on the rights of the state. What was the sudden need to enhance the BSF’s jurisdiction without informing the state government?” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh told PTI.

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