Updated: November 18, 2021 6:08:50 am
In the crosshairs of the Trinamool Congress over the Centre’s decision to extend its jurisdiction in border states, including West Bengal, the Border Security Force (BSF) on Wednesday issued a clarification saying the force is vested with limited powers and enhancement of its jurisdiction doesn’t mean interference with the law and order machinery of a state.
Addressing a press conference, Additional Director General, BSF (Eastern Command), YB Khurania said the border protection force has no policing powers and it will continue to work in coordination with the state police as before.
“The BSF has the power to search, not arrest. We are not an investigating agency. So, all apprehensions that the extension of the BSF’s jurisdiction will lead to interference with a state’s law and order machinery are misplaced,” Khurania said.
The Centre recently notified the extension of the BSF’s jurisdiction from 15kms up to 50kms. On that, the ADG said there will be no new border outpost despite the increase in its jurisdiction.
“We will continue to function in the 50km-stretch in the same manner as it did while operating within 15kms from the border,” Khurania said.
He added that whatever is seized on the border or whoever is apprehended are handed over to the law-and-order agency concerned for further action.
“All persons apprehended or items seized on the border are handed over to the police. We have a very comfortable relationship with the state police. We operate in synergy with the state police and the other law enforcement agencies at all levels. We interact and exchange notes from time to time. At times, we also conduct joint operations both at the border and deeper inland,” the ADG said, adding, “There are apprehensions that the BSF will start to interfere with the law-and-order machinery of a state in the wake of an increase in its jurisdiction to 50kms. I would like to clarify that the BSF has no power of investigation. We don’t have the power to register an FIR. Whatever’s seized or whoever’s arrested are handed over to law and order authorities concerned. They also include the state police. It is on them to register an FIR and take further action.”
Khurania clarified that the new notifications of its jurisdiction haven’t altered its sphere of authority. “The above change in territorial jurisdiction, vide the notification dated 11.10.2021, pertains only to powers conferred upon BSF under Criminal Procedure Code 1973, Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Passport Act 1967. The state police jurisdiction continues till the international boundary,” Khurania said at the press conference.
He added that the BSF will continue to work in coordination with the state police as before.
The BSF’s Eastern Command is mandated to look after the eastern theatre along the international border with Bangladesh, which spreads approximately over 4,120 kms.
Several Opposition parties have objected to Centre’s decision extending the BSF’s jurisdiction claiming that it will invite more problems for common villagers in border areas.
Responding to the BSF’s clarification, senior Trinamool MP Sougata Roy said, “It wasn’t right for the (ADG) BSF to hold a press conference today when a resolution has already been adopted in the Assembly. The BSF is not an investigating agency but if its jurisdiction is increased, it could harass villagers living in border areas.”
Countering Roy’s remark, BJP national vice president Dilip Ghosh said, “There are a few people whose businesses will be destroyed if the BSF’s jurisdiction is increased. It isn’t right to comment on the BSF in the manner they have done. No responsible leader can speak like this. They put their lives on the line to ensure that no infiltrator can sneak in through our borders. They keep us safe.”
Terming the allegation levelled by Trinamool’s Dinhata MLA Udayan Guha that BSF personnel touch women suspects inappropriately in the name of frisking as “unfortunate and baseless”, the ADG said, “The allegation is really unfortunate. We have more than 4,000 women personnel. CCTVs are installed at all entry points in border areas. Allegations, if any, are looked into. If there is a specific complaint, it should be investigated,” Khurania said.
The Bengal Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution against the Centre’s decision to amend the Border Security Force (BSF) Act, authorising the force to undertake seizure and arrest within a larger 50 km stretch, instead of 15 km, from the international border in some states, including West Bengal.
Speaking on the floor of the Assembly, Guha said, “We have seen the kind of atrocities that BSF [personnel] perpetrate on people. A child who has seen his mother being touched inappropriately in the name of frisking when she returns from the field, can never be patriotic, no matter how many times you chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in front of him. Such incidents give birth to anti-social elements.’
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