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Centre's move to expand BSF's jurisdiction called out as attack on federalism

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Centres move to expand BSFs jurisdiction called out as attack on federalism
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New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs has reportedly decided to empower the Border Security Force (BSF) with jurisdiction to carry out searches and arrests from 15 km to 50 km inside the international border along with Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. The move is said to make the border surveillance efficient to track down drug and other contraband smuggling.

The decision, however, did not go well with the opposition ruled states in Punjab and West Bengal as they see it as a deliberate intrusion into the state's jurisdiction and an attack on federalism.

The Home Affairs' unilateral decision to expand the BSF jurisdiction to a range of 50 km along the international border is condemnable as an attack on federalism, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi tweeted. "I urge the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to immediately roll back this irrational decision," his tweet reads.

As per the new order, the BSF could conduct searches, and make arrests and seizures without consultation of any kind with the state police, particularly in Punjab's Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Pathankot which come under 50 km from the border. The Golden Temple in Amritsar, for example, is around 35 km from the Wagah border with Pakistan.

Punjab CM's deputy and Home Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa called the decision an infringement on the federal structure which could create an atmosphere of fear in the state. "Punjab has never seen communal violence. We urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to disturb the peace of the state," Randhawa added.

West Bengal Transport Minister and TMC leader Firhad Hakim said that by the new order, the Centre government is violating the federal structure of the country by interfering in law and order, which is a subject of state affairs.

Congress MP Manish Tewari tweeted that the Centre's decision "transgresses upon Constitutional public order & policing remit of States" and that "Half of Punjab will now fall under BSF jurisdiction".

"Section 139 (ii) gives sweeping powers of arrest to BSF. It has powers of preventive arrest under Section 139 (1) & posts offence arrest under 139 (ii). No mention of consultation with local police. Scheme of Act & its implementation regime needs to be studied," his tweet further pointed out.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs defended the move citing the instances of weapons being dropped in Punjab by drones from across the border. But the ministry has acted differently for various states; BSF jurisdiction in Gujarat has been reduced from an 80-km radius along the border to 50 km, while in Rajasthan it stays at 50 km.

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