As the Opposition plans to ‘gherao’ the government on the issue of BSF jurisdiction, the Union government has called the apprehension of states like West Bengal and Punjab unwarranted.
In response to a question asked by Ravneet Singh Bittu and Deepak Baij of Congress and Prof Sougata Ray of TMC, MoS Home Nityanand Rai said the apprehension of Punjab and Bengal is “ill founded”. “The Government of West Bengal and Government of Punjab have expressed their apprehension that such a move encroaches upon the powers of the State Government. Their apprehensions are ill-founded. The extension of territorial jurisdiction of BSF would result in better and more effective control on trans-border crimes in conjunction and co-operation with State Police,” he said.
Bittu, Baij and Roy had asked if any consultation happened before the decision was made and if government is aware of the apprehension that this could lead to central interference in law and order of states. “Did the Government propose to look into the genuine concerns and objections raised by the State Governments and take corrective action,” the MPs questioned.
Earlier, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue. Poll-bound Punjab too has seen the issue of BSF jurisdiction dominating political discourse. Former Punjab CM Captain Amrinder Singh, however, had welcomed the Centre’s move, saying it was in national interest.
The government had amended the 2014 notifications and extended the jurisdiction of Border Security Force (BSF) in states like Assam, Punjab, Gujarat and West Bengal on October 11 this year. The notification increased BSF’s jurisdiction to 50 kilometers in all states. Except Gujarat, in all other states, earlier BSF jurisdiction was till 15 kilometres. In Gujarat, it was 80 kilometres.
Justifying the move, the Ministry of Home Affairs told Lok Sabha, “Section 139(1) (i) of the BSF Act, 1968 empowers the Central Government to confer powers and duties on members of the force in respect of any Central Acts for the purposes specified therein.”
BSF DG Pankaj Singh too has dismissed concerns about BSF interfering in law and order of states. In an interview to All India Radio, Singh said the notifications amending the passport act were necessary to check infiltration in border areas.
“Any action that BSF takes, the FIR will be in the local police station, investigation will be done by local police, and the call on whether a trial will happen against the accused will also be taken by the local police. BSF has no role in these. So it is a myth that BSF is emerging as a parallel police,” he said.