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Supreme Court to Examine BSF Jurisdiction Extension in Punjab

  • Published
    23rd Jan, 2024
Context

The extension granted to BSF in terms of area of its jurisdiction has emerged as a recent flashpoint between the state of Punjab and Union Home Ministry, with the state challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre's notification issued in October 2021.

Background
  • Punjab contests the extension of BSF's jurisdiction from 15 km to 50 km from the Indo-Pakistan border, invoking Section 139 of the BSF Act, 1968.
  • The constitutional debate revolves around whether the Centre's move infringes upon Punjab's legislative domain and dilutes its authority over the police and maintenance of public order.

Supreme Court's Intervention:

  • A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, has taken up the case.
  • The court aims to determine if all border states should be treated uniformly in delineating BSF's jurisdiction and whether the Centre's actions constitute an encroachment into Punjab's legislative territory.

Constitutional Challenge:

  • Punjab questions the constitutional validity of the Centre's October 2021 notification, utilizing Section 139 of the BSF Act.
  • This section empowers the Centre to confer duties and powers on BSF members concerning Central Acts, aiming to enhance control over trans-border crimes in collaboration with State Police.

Key Legal Issues:

  • The Supreme Court will scrutinize whether the Centre's notification signifies an arbitrary exercise of power and an unconstitutional interference into Punjab's authority.
  • The court will specifically consider if the expansion of BSF's jurisdiction to 50 km surpasses the defined 'local limits of area adjoining the borders of India' under Section 139.

Factors for Consideration:

  • The court will delve into the factors that should be considered when demarcating BSF's jurisdiction in a border area within a state.
  • This involves an exploration of the differences in topography, population concentration, and other relevant aspects.

Legal Arguments:

  • Solicitor General, representing the Union government, highlights varying BSF jurisdictions in different states, citing examples like 80 km in Gujarat and 50 km in Rajasthan.
  • Punjab's Advocate General contends that factors such as topography and population concentration should determine BSF jurisdiction, emphasizing that Punjab's smaller size includes cities and towns within the 50 km ambit.
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