Punjab government moves SC challenging Centre's decision to expand BSF's territorial jurisdiction
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.
NEW DELHI: The row over the Centre’s decision to extend the BSF jurisdiction to a 50 km belt along the international borders in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam has reached Supreme Court with the Charanjit Singh Channi government challenging the move. Punjab is the first state to challenge the Centre’s decision.
Filed under Article 131 of the Constitution, the suit was listed before the Registrar, who issued a notice to the Centre through the Attorney General. The next hearing would be after four weeks. Under Article 131, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to deal with any dispute between the Centre and a state, the Centre and a state on one side and another state on the other side, and between two or more states.
"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 said the effect of the notification dated October 11, 2021, is that “it amounts to encroachment upon the powers and the role of the plaintiff-state of Punjab by the Centre, inasmuch as more than 80 per cent of the border districts, all the major towns and cities including all the district headquarters of Punjab fall within a 50 km 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.
Earlier, the BSF’s jurisdiction was a 15 km belt along the border. In the area under their jurisdiction, BSF officers have powers of arrest, search and seize on par with the police.
It 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.
In Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, the BSF’s jurisdiction has been curtailed by 20 km while in Gujarat, it has been curtained by 30 km. There has been no change in Rajasthan.