Punjab’s Challenge: Unraveling the Dispute Over BSF Jurisdiction Expansion

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January 24, 2024

Punjab’s Challenge: Unraveling the Dispute Over BSF Jurisdiction Expansion

• The expansion of the Border Security Force (BSF) jurisdiction in Punjab, West Bengal, and Assam, as notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs on October 11, 2021, has triggered a legal battle. This article delves into the reasons behind the BSF jurisdiction extension, why Punjab is the sole state in court, and the key issues the Supreme Court will address during the upcoming hearings.
BSF Jurisdiction Expansion: Unveiling the Background
BSF’s Role and Powers:
• The BSF, established in 1968, plays a crucial role in securing India’s borders and is authorized to arrest, search, and seize under various laws. The expansion, enacted through Section 139(1) of the BSF Act, increased the jurisdiction from 15 to 50 kilometers along the borders of Punjab, West Bengal, and Assam.
Rationale Behind the Extension:
• The decision to extend the BSF’s jurisdiction was attributed to the growing use of drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and the challenges posed by long-range capabilities in surveillance, smuggling of arms, fake currency, and the menace of cattle smuggling. The Ministry of Home Affairs emphasized uniformity across states and referenced the already existing 50-kilometer limit in Rajasthan.
Punjab’s Legal Challenge: Unraveling the Concerns
Punjab’s Opposition:
• In response to the expansion, Punjab took a stand by filing an ‘original suit’ in the Supreme Court. The state argued that the extension compromises its exclusive legislative powers concerning police and public order. Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi deemed it a direct assault on federalism.
Constitutional Dimensions:
• The challenge is grounded in Entries 1 and 2 of the State List under Article 246 of the Constitution. Punjab contends that the notification was issued without consulting the concerned states, and a substantial portion of its populated areas would now fall within the enlarged 50-kilometer jurisdiction.
Legal Landscape and Potential Ramifications
State Responses:
• While West Bengal initially voiced opposition through a resolution demanding withdrawal, it has not joined Punjab’s legal challenge as of now. Other states impacted by the jurisdiction expansion are yet to formally contest the notification.
Key Issues Before the Supreme Court:
• The Supreme Court will deliberate on the arbitrariness or legitimacy of the BSF jurisdiction extension. Additionally, it will assess whether the notification infringes upon the powers of local police and encroaches upon states’ constitutional authority. Determining the criteria for defining areas adjoining the borders and evaluating the uniform treatment of states will also be pivotal. The legal question of challenging the notification through an original suit under Article 131 of the Constitution will be addressed.
Conclusion: Anticipating the Supreme Court’s Verdict
• As the Supreme Court prepares for final hearings in the coming weeks, the nation awaits a resolution to this legal tussle over BSF jurisdiction. The court’s decisions will not only impact the specific case but also set precedents regarding the delicate balance between central and state powers in matters of border security.

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Punjab’s Challenge: Unraveling the Dispute Over BSF Jurisdiction Expansion | Vaid ICS Institute