[Editorial Analysis] Securing the states

Mains Paper 3: Defence and Security
Prelims level: BSF jurisdiction extension
Mains level: Issues related to Internal Security and Armed Police Forces

Context:

• Recently Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification extending the jurisdiction of the Border Security Forces from 15 km to a depth of 50 km along with the 3 international bordering states- Assam, Punjab and West Bengal.

• This led to a fresh round of controversy involving the Centre and States.

Border Security Forces:

• The Ministry of Home Affairs controlled BSF is India’s border guarding organization on its border with Pakistan and Bangladesh, which was raised in the wake of the 1965 War on 1 December 1965 for ensuring the security of the borders of India and for matters connected therewith.

• The BSF has its own cadre of officers but its head i.e. Director-General (DG) is from the Indian Police Service (IPS).

The Jurisdiction and the Changes:

• MHA under the powers conferred by the Border Security Forces Act 1968, released a previous notification in 2014 defining the jurisdiction of the BSF that states that the forces could operate in the entire state of Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya without any restrictions whatsoever.

• In Gujarat and Rajasthan, it had jurisdiction up to a depth of 80km and 50km respectively.

• In Punjab, Assam and West Bengal the BSF jurisdiction was up to a depth of 15 km only.

The new notification:

• The latest notification has not changed the jurisdiction of northeastern states and Rajasthan.

• While the jurisdiction in Gujarat has been reduced from 80km to 50km.

• The controversial change is in Assam, West Bengal and Punjab where the BSF jurisdiction has been extended from 15km to 50km.

• At the same time, BSF jurisdiction extended only in respect of the powers it enjoys under CrPC, Passport (Entry into India) 1920 and the Passport Act 1967.

• Under these laws, BSF currently has the power to arrest and search.

• Further, it also has the powers to arrest, search and seize under the NDPS Act, Arms Act, Customs Act and certain other laws.

• However, the jurisdiction under these laws has not changed and continues to be only up to 15km inside the border in Punjab, Assam and West Bengal and will remain as far as 80km in Gujarat.

Rationale/Need for Jurisdictional Change:

• The threat perception from across the international borders has undergone a sea change in the backdrop of Af-Pak region developments.

• Radical groups are feeling emboldened and are going to make a determined attempt to destabilize Punjab.

• Pak-sponsored terrorist groups will certainly renew their onslaught in the bordering states.

• Further West Bengal has been under the pressure of illegal migrant’s influx.

• Assam faces multiple problems of ethnic insurgencies, smuggling, counterfeit, etc.

• The main objective of the move is to bring uniformity and also to increase operational efficiency. Earlier BSF had different jurisdictions in different states.

• BSF often gets information relating to crime scenes that may be out of their jurisdiction.

• The move was also necessitated due to increasing instances of drone-dropping of weapons and drugs.

• Also, the police across the country are in a state of atrophy and they need the assistance of central armed police forces even for maintaining law and order.

Possible Impact of the Jurisdictional Change:

• The latest notification only seeks to reinforce the capabilities of the state police in securing the states under section 139 of the BSF Act.

• That empowers the members of the forces to discharge certain powers and duties within local limits of the area specified in the schedule.

• The jurisdiction of the state police is neither curtailed nor its powers reduced in any manner.

• It is just that BSF will also be exercising the powers of search, seizures and arrest against those entering India illegally.

• This move will complement the efforts of the local police. Thus, it is an enabling provision.

• It’s not that the local police can’t act within the jurisdiction of the BSF.

• The state police have better knowledge of the ground. Hence BSF and local Police can act in cooperation.

Conclusions:

• Indian federation though unitary in bias it fulfills the fundamental conditions/features of a federation.

• As the internal and external security threats have been rapidly transforming, India needs to have effective control over the bordering areas to prevent the supply of arms, ammunition and drugs to the radical groups.

• The recent amendment is a welcome move because irrespective of the jurisdictional concerns, National Security is a paramount consideration.

• The move will effectively bring uniformity of surveillance and monitoring across the fragile bordering states and helps effectively in tackling threat multipliers.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the drone, consider the following statements:

1. i-Drone is an initiative of DRDO.

2. Currently, the drone-based delivery project has been granted permission for implementation in Manipur and Nagaland, as well as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

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