The Supreme Court on Friday orally observed that the Centre’s decision to expand the BSF’s jurisdiction to a 50-km stretch from the International Border, compared to the earlier 15 km limit, does not take away the power of the Punjab Police. A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, addressed the 2021 lawsuit of the Punjab government during the hearing.
The court suggested that the issues for adjudication need to be settled and asked the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and lawyer Shadan Farasat, representing the Punjab government, to jointly decide on the issues.
The bench stated, “The parties shall exchange issues so that they can be settled before the next date of listing,” adding that the Advocate General of Punjab can also participate in the meeting of parties. Chief Justice Chandrachud orally observed that there were concurrent powers to be exercised by the BSF and the state police and that the power of investigation is not taken away from the Punjab Police.
During the hearing, the Solicitor General emphasized that the BSF has jurisdiction in all border states, with uniform jurisdiction of 50 km in all border states. He clarified that the impugned notification does not cover all cognizable offenses, and the BSF has jurisdiction over specific passport offenses. On the other hand, Farasat argued that the Centre’s decision takes away the power of the police and other agencies in Punjab.
In January 2021, the Punjab government moved the Supreme Court challenging the Centre’s decision to expand the BSF’s jurisdiction. The state government argued that the extension of the BSF’s territorial jurisdiction encroaches upon the constitutional jurisdiction of the state. The Union home ministry had issued a notification amending a July 2014 enabling provision for BSF personnel, expanding their jurisdiction to a 50-km stretch from the international border in Punjab.
The lawsuit contends that the unilateral declaration under the 11 October, 2021 notification, without consulting the state or conducting any consultative process, violates the provisions of the Constitution. It argues that the notification is ultra vires the Constitution as it defeats the purpose of the state’s authority to legislate on issues related to the maintenance of public order and internal peace.
The BSF, established on 1 December, 1965, comprises approximately 2.65 lakh personnel. With 192 operational battalions, it stands as the largest border-guarding force in the country. Alongside the BSF, the other three major border-guarding forces are the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), and Assam Rifles.