G.S. Paper-3: Internal Security
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has decided to study “border management”, which will also entail deliberations on the contentious extension of the jurisdiction of the Border Security force (BSF) up to 50 km inside the international borders in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
The Home Ministry, through a notification published on October 11, amended the BSF Act of 1968. The BSF’s powers which include arrest, search and seizure was till now only up to 15 km in these States. Punjab and West Bengal have objected to the change.
What has changed with the recent Amendment in the BSF Act?
- The “arrest, search and seize” powers of the Border Security Force (BSF) will now be up to 50 km from the international boundary within Assam, West Bengal and Punjab.
- In Gujarat, the limit was reduced from the existing 80 km to 50 km.
- In Rajasthan, the 50-km limit remains unchanged.
- Earlier the operational writ of BSF was different in different border States, the fresh notification ends this anomaly.
- The notification replaces a 2014 order under the BSF Act, 1968, which also empowers the force to conduct counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, J&K and Ladakh.
|How BSF Works?
· The BSF is a central armed police force (CAPF) that functions under the Union government.
· It was raised in 1965 in the aftermath of the India-Pakistan war.
· The BSF Act was passed by Parliament in 1968 and the rules governing the Act were framed in 1969.
· The MHA issues all orders pertaining to the BSF and other CAPFs
· India is a Union of States and under the One Border One Force policy, the BSF is deployed along the Pakistan and Bangladesh borders. It is also deployed in areas affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) and is routinely deployed for election and other law and order duties at the request of State governments.
- Opposition political parties term the recent amendment as a violation of the federal values laid down in the Constitution.
- West Bengal has a 2,216 km long border with Bangladesh and the Trinamool contends that the extension of jurisdiction will effectively bring nearly one-third of the State’s territory under the BSF’s control. Out of 23 districts in the State, nearly 10 districts will be affected. This will have an impact on 21 of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies which could have larger political implications.
- The BSF Act, Section 139(3) requires the Government to lay the notification before Parliament and the members, within 30 days, can raise a motion for discussion on annulment of such an order.
- Strengthening police capabilities, improving coordination between security agencies and cooperating with state law enforcement are needed to address internal security issues rather than creating new complications.
Arguments in favour of the recent Amendment
- The amendment “establishes uniformity in defining the area within which the BSF can operate” and also to improve its operational effectiveness in curbing trans-border crimes.
- Earlier the operational writ of the BSF was different in different border States and the fresh notification ends this anomaly.
- It is not a new phenomenon as under Rule 15 of the BSF Rules, 1969, the BSF has been assigned three primary tasks while deployed along the borders: promote a sense of security among the people living in the border area, prevent trans-border crimes/unauthorised entry into or exit from the territory of India and prevent smuggling and any other illegal activity.
- The BSF does not have policing powers and after apprehending a suspect, it can only conduct “preliminary questioning” and the seized consignment or a suspect has to be handed over to the local police within 24 hours.
To strengthen Internal security & policing capabilities it is vital that other security forces cooperate with local police forces, not bypass them. The BSF has had a relatively good record of local police cooperation thus far; the home ministry’s recent decision runs the risk of pitting the two against each other. Thus, co-operation is the key to reaching a win-win situation.