Why in News:
- After three years, the border guarding forces of India and Pakistan have revived sector commander-level talks.
- Also, recently The Union Home Ministry has enhanced the powers of the Border Security Force (BSF) to “arrest, search and seize” within 50 km from the international boundary in Assam, West Bengal and Punjab.
- In Gujarat, the limit was reduced from the existing 80 km to 50 km and in Rajasthan, the 50 km limit has remained unchanged.
- After the India-Pakistan war in 1965, the Border Security Force (BSF) was formed. It is known as India’s First Line of Defense.
- It is one of the Union of India’s five Central Armed Police Forces, and it is administered by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
- Assam Rifles (AR), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), National Security Guards (NSG), and Sashastra Seema Bal are some of the other Central Armed Police Forces (SSB).
- It is deployed alongside the Indian Army on the Indo-Pakistan International Border, the Indo-Bangladesh International Border, the Line of Control (LoC), and in anti-Naxal operations.
- BSF guard Sir Creak in the Arabian Sea and the Sundarban delta in the Bay of Bengal.
- BSF plays an important role in assisting the state administration in preserving law and order and ensuring a peaceful election.
- BSF contributes its personnel every year for UN Missions.
- It also supports during natural disasters
- The violations for which the BSF carries out search and seizure include smuggling of narcotics, other prohibited items, illegal entry of foreigners and offences punishable under any other Central Act among others.
Powers of BSF
- In border areas, the BSF can “arrest, search and seize” in cases pertaining to smuggling of narcotics, prohibited items, illegal entry of foreigners and offences punishable under any other Central Act and select provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
- The BSF does not have policing powers and after apprehending a suspect as it does not have powers to register an FIR or to carry out investigations.
- It can only conduct “preliminary questioning” and the seized consignment or a suspect have to be handed over to the local police within 24 hours.
- The BSF lacks the authority to prosecute criminal suspects.
- Such powers under CrPC are already available to other central forces such as the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). The ITBP (raised to protect the China border) and the SSB (for Bhutan and Nepal border) are also border guarding forces but can be deployed in the hinterland at the request of State governments.
- According to the BSF Act, 1968, passed by Parliament and the rules framed in 1969, the BSF has been assigned three primary tasks while deployed along the borders — promote a sense of security among the people living in the border area; prevent trans-border crimes/unauthorised entry into or exit from the territory of India and prevent smuggling and any other illegal activity.
- BSFs jurisdiction has been extended only in respect of the powers it enjoys under:
- Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC)
- Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and
- Passport Act, 1967
- It also has powers to arrest, search and seize under the NDPS Act, Arms Act, Customs Act and certain other laws.
Concerns raised against central forces
- Against the spirit of federalism
- Maintenance of Law & order vs Security of the Country
- Under Article 355, the Centre can deploy its forces to protect a state against “external aggression and internal disturbance,” even when the state concerned does not requisition the Centre’s assistance and is reluctant to receive central forces.
- In the case of a state’s opposition to the deployment of armed forces of the Union, the right course for the Centre is to first issue directives under Article 355 to the state concerned, and “in the event of the state not complying with the directive of the Central government, the Centre can take further action under Article 356.”