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To amend BSF Act, Centre to drop UPA Bill, bring its own

PM Narendra Modi had strongly opposed the Bill, saying it was an attempt to “create a state within a state”.

Written by Vijaita Singh | New Delhi |
January 19, 2015 12:35:02 am

The Union Home Ministry is all set to drop the controversial Bill brought by the UPA government to amend the Border Security Force (BSF) Act of 1968, which gave the force “search and seizure” powers anywhere in India and has come up with a new Bill instead. During his stint as the chief minister of Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had strongly opposed the Bill, saying it was an attempt to “create a state within a state”.

The Border Security Force (Amendment) Bill, 2011 was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2012 and has been pending since then. The NDA government will now withdraw the Bill and a new one will be introduced in Parliament that takes care of the doubts raised by Modi then.

“We have studied the old Bill, there was some problem in its drafting, which gave an impression that sweeping powers were to be given to the paramilitary force. A carefully worded Bill is now being worked on and all states will again be asked for their comments on it,” said a senior government official.

Presently, the Centre has given powers to BSF personnel in border areas under the Customs Act, the Passport Act, the NDPS Act and the CrPC to arrest, search and seize within the prescribed border belt, which is 80 km in Gujarat, 50 km in Rajasthan and 15 km in West Bengal, Assam and Punjab. No such limit has been prescribed for J&K and five Northeast states of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur.

The then home secretary R K Singh (who is now a BJP MP) had told a parliamentary standing committee that such “search and seizure” powers “were an enabling provision that would permit the deployment of BSF personnel for internal security duties in the hinterland and will allow the government to empower them appropriately to perform their duties.”

Though Modi opposed the Bill in a letter to former prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2012, the state government never expressed its opposition to the Bill when asked for its comments in November 2011. In a letter to Singh, Modi had said, “This is another attempt by the Centre to weaken the federal structure of the country. The present central government is hell bent to snatch powers of the state and is conspiring to weaken the federal structure.”

Later, the CPM opposed the Bill on the floor of the House with MP Sitaram Yechury asserting that the BSF Bill was a “direct intrusion into the rights of the states”.

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