BORDER SECURITY FORCE
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The Supreme Court is set to hear the dispute over the expansion of the Border Security Force (BSF) jurisdiction in Punjab. Final hearings in this case will commence in four weeks.
- On October 11, 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification expanding the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) in Punjab, West Bengal, and Assam.
- This move, aimed at countering emerging security threats, faced legal opposition, particularly from Punjab.
BSF's Role and Powers
- Creation and Empowerment: The BSF, created under the Border Security Force Act in 1968, is tasked with securing India's borders and is granted powers to arrest, search, and seize under various laws.
- Jurisdiction Expansion: Before the October 2021 notification, the BSF could exercise powers within 15 kilometers of the border in Punjab, West Bengal, and Assam. The notification extended this jurisdiction to 50 kilometers, citing security concerns related to drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and cross-border criminal activities.
Reasons Behind Jurisdiction Expansion
- Security Challenges: The expansion was driven by the increased use of drones for surveillance, smuggling arms, and transporting fake currency.
- Uniformity Across States: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the expansion aimed to establish uniformity, as Rajasthan already had a 50-kilometer limit.
Punjab's Legal Challenge
- Original Suit: Punjab filed an 'original suit' against the central government in the Supreme Court, invoking Article 131 of the Constitution, which grants the SC exclusive jurisdiction in disputes between the center and states.
- Compromised State Powers: Punjab contends that the BSF's expanded jurisdiction encroaches upon the state's exclusive legislative powers related to police and public order, as outlined in Entries 1 and 2 of the State List under Article 246.
- Federalism Concerns: The then Chief Minister of Punjab termed the expansion a "direct attack on federalism," asserting that the notification was issued without consulting the affected states.
Issues Before the Supreme Court
- Arbitrariness vs. Legitimacy: The court will assess whether the notification expanding BSF's jurisdiction was arbitrary or based on legitimate security reasons.
- Interference with State Powers: It will be determined if the notification interferes with the powers of local police and infringes upon states' constitutional powers.
- Uniform Treatment: The court will consider whether all states must be treated alike when defining local limits adjoining the borders.
- Constitutional Challenge: The SC will decide the validity of challenging the notification through an original suit under Article 131.
- While West Bengal also expressed discontent with the notification, Punjab remains the sole state challenging it in court.
- The SC's decision will have broader implications for federalism and the balance of powers between the center and states in matters of border security.
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Q. BSF is meant to secure India’s borders with its neighbouring nations and is empowered to arrest, search and seize under a number of laws. Elaborate. (250 Words)