Punjab govt moves SC challenging Centre’s BSF jurisdiction expansion decision


New Delhi: The Punjab government has moved the Supreme Court, challenging the Centre’s decision that expanded the BSF’s jurisdiction to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a larger 50-km stretch from the international border in Assam, West Bengal and Punjab, as compared to the earlier 15 km.

The state government, in its original suit, has said the extension of the territorial jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) encroaches upon the constitutional jurisdiction of the state.

The Union home ministry issued a notification on October 11, amending a July 2014 enabling provision for the BSF personnel and officers while they operate in the border areas.

While in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, the BSF jurisdiction was enhanced from 15 km to 50 km, in Gujarat, which shares its borders with Pakistan, the limit was reduced from 80 km to 50 km, while in Rajasthan, it was kept unchanged at 50 km.

The issue courted controversy as Opposition-ruled Punjab and West Bengal denounced the move and the respective state assemblies moved resolutions against the decision of the Union government.

In its suit filed through advocate Ashok K Mahajan, the Punjab government has said the “unilateral declaration” under the October 11 notification “without consulting” the state or without conducting any “consultative process is violative of the provisions of the Constitution of India”.

“The defendant, all of a sudden, on October 11, 2021, without consulting the plaintiff — State of Punjab — or conducting any consultative process, issued the notification, whereby it amended the schedules of notifications dated July 3, 2014, September 22, 1969, and June 11, 2012, and increased the limit from 15 kilometres to 50 kilometres,” it has said.

The plea says the effect and consequence of the October 11 notification are that it “amounts to encroachment” upon the powers of the state by the Centre inasmuch as more than 80 per cent area of the border districts, all the major towns and cities, including all the district headquarters of these border districts, fall within a 50-kilometre area from the Indo-Pakistan border.

It says Punjab’s concerns are totally different and distinguishable from those of the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

“It is submitted that the notification dated October 11, 2021, is ultra-vires the Constitution as it defeats the purpose of Entry 1 and 2 of List-II of Schedule 7 of the Constitution of India and encroaches upon plaintiff’s plenary authority to legislate on issues which relate to or are necessary for the maintenance of public order and internal peace,” the plea says.

The BSF has a strength of about 2.65 lakh personnel and it was raised on December 1, 1965.

It has 192 operational battalions and is the country’s largest border guarding force, with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Assam Rifles being the other three.

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