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Channi criticizes Centre’s decision, says “Attack on federalism”

Chandigarh : Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Wednesday criticized the Centre’s decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force up to 50 kilometers from the international border. Channi termed the move as a direct attack on federalism. He urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to roll back the decision.

The Centre’s reported move to empower the Border Security Force (BSF) to carry out searches and arrests over a wider belt along the borders of three states. The Union Home Ministry has extended BSF jurisdiction (including international border) for West Bengal, Assam and Punjab. In all three states, the BSF’s area of operation was earlier up to 15 kilometers from the international border.

The order suggests that the central force can arrest and carry out searches and seizures over a region where its powers could clash with those of the state police in Punjab’s Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Pathankot. The Golden Temple in Amritsar, for example, is around 35 km from the Wagah border with Pakistan.

“I strongly condemn the government’s unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 km belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to immediately roll back this irrational decision,” the Punjab Chief Minister tweeted amid a massive backlash in the state.

“We condemn this decision. It is an infringement on the federal structure and will create an atmosphere of fear in Punjab. People will not tolerate this,” said his deputy and Punjab Home Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa.

“Punjab has never seen communal violence. We urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to disturb the peace of the state,” Randhawa added.

Channi’s predecessor Captain Amarinder Singh who had to resign as Punjab Chief Minister amidst tensions within the Congress has however approved of the Centre’s move.

“Our soldiers are being killed in Kashmir. We’re seeing more and more weapons and drugs being pushed by Pakistan backed terrorists into Punjab. BSF’s enhanced presence and powers will only make us stronger. Let’s not drag central armed forces into politics.” Singh tweeted.

Former Punjab Congress President Sunil Uhakkar also took a dig at the chief minister when he put out a tweet stating that Channi had unwittingly managed to hand over half of Punjab to Central government.

“Be careful what you ask fort Has (Punjab CM) Charanjit Singh Channi unwittingly managed to hand over half of Punjab to Central govt 25.000sq km (out of total 50,000sq km) has now been placed under BSF jurisdiction. Punjab Police stands castigated Do we still want more autonomy from the States? In a move aimed at maintaining “zero tolerance against terrorism and cross border crimes, the Centre has empowered the 3 to conduct searches, arrest suspects and make seizures up to an area of 50 km inside Indian territory from the international Border (18) along the India-Pakistan and India Bangladesh borders.
As per the fresh order, the BSF, which was only empowered to take action up to fifteen kilometers in the states of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, has now been authorised to spread its jurisdiction up to 50 km without any hurdle or further permission either from central or state governments.

However, its jurisdiction has been cut short by 20 km in the five northeastern states Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya-where it had jurisdiction up to 80 km. Similarly in Gujarat, the BSF’s jurisdiction has been curtailed from 80 to 50 km In Rajasthan, the BSF’s area of jurisdiction will remain the same at 50 km. An officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest rank of member of the BSF is now empowered under the CrPC to exercise and discharge the powers and duties without an order from a Magistrate and without a warrant.

The officer is now empowered to arrest any person who has been concerned in any cognizable offence, or against whom a reasonable complaint has been made, or credible information has been received. A BSF officer has now been given the power to conduct a search of a place entered by a person sought to be arrested in its new area of jurisdiction.

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