Territorial Jurisdiction of Border Security Force

Territorial jurisdiction issues with the Border Security Force (BSF)

Why in the news Territorial Jurisdiction of Border Security Force?

Punjab has filed a lawsuit opposing the central government’s plan to expand the Territorial Jurisdiction of Border Security Force operating jurisdiction from 15 to 50 kilometers, claiming it to be an infringement on state law and order authority and a violation of federal principles, West Bengal also holds the same opinion.

Special Powers of BSF:

  • The BSF Act, 1968 gives the BSF the authority to expand its jurisdiction to include all border states as long as certain offenses taken into account.
  • The boundaries of each state’s authority vary. For example, Gujarat had 80 kilometers, whereas other states had less (Punjab, for example, only 15 km). It has now been uniform by 50 kilometers (according the Central Government’s announcement from 2021).
  • Regarding certain offenses under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and Passport Act, 1967, among other laws, BSF has concurrent authority with state police/agencies.

The procedure for Territorial Jurisdiction of Border Security Force:

When someone violates any of the Central Acts or smuggles drugs, goods that forbidden, enters the country illegally, or commits other offenses, the BSF’s entitles to search and seizure. The BSF’s only allows to conduct “preliminary questioning” after detaining a suspect or seizing a consignment in the designate area. The detainee must be turns over to local police within 24 hours. Suspects in crimes cannot be prosecutes by the BSF.

Note: The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over issues that arise between states or between states and the Center under Article 131.

The Supreme Court made it clear that the 2021 notification extending the BSF’s jurisdiction in Punjab from 15 to 50 km gives it concurrent authority to prevent certain offenses, but it does not take away from the state police’s investigation powers.

What does the Constitution Say in Territorial Jurisdiction of Border Security Force?

Even in the absence of a state’s request, the Center permits by Article 355 to use force to defend a state against assault from the outside or internal unrest. Article 355 allows the Center to issue directives in the event that a state objects to deployment. Article 356 (President’s Rule) allows the Center to take additional action if the state doesn’t comply.

Issues with the Centre’s extension of BSF’s jurisdiction:

  • Public order vs state security: The State Government is in charge of public order and police.
  • Weaken Federalism’s spirit: It believes that the announcement, made without the approval of the state administration, violates state authority. The Punjabi government sees it as an intrusion disguise as development or security.
  • Affecting BSF Functioning: BSF’s ability to protect the international border as its main job weaken by police activity in the hinterland.
  • Problems Particular to Punjab: Punjab is a relatively small state, and the expansion includes its key cities. However, certain states, like Rajasthan and Gujarat, have unique geographical characteristics (desert and marshland, respectively), which may support the extension.

Central Government’s arguments:

  1. Improve Border Security: To strengthen border patrol efficiency, the distance has been increase to 50 km.
  2. Standardising Operations: For consistency, the expansion attempts to bring the operational area together across several states.

The Border Security Force’s (BSF) role in combating cross-border crimes and illicit migration:

  • Defending porous borders: BSF’s cutting-edge fleet of water craft has been protecting the Sundarbans Delta in the Bay of Bengal and Sir Creek in the Arabian Sea.
  • Cooperating with local police: the majority of raids and arrests are carried out in close coordination and cooperation with the local police. Police will take action against any criminal or smuggler if the BSF presents solid proof.
  • The First Line of Defence: Because of its involvement in combating cross-border crimes and illegal migration from the eastern border, it has been named the First Line of Defence of Indian Territories.
  • Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System: The Border Security Force (BSF) is now far more capable of identifying and combating cross-border crimes such as illegal infiltration, the smuggling of contraband items, human trafficking, and cross-border terrorism thanks to the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System.

Some responsibilities:

  • BSF and internal security responsibilities: Although guarding borders has always been the BSF’s main responsibility, the force has also been used for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in unstable regions of the nation, including as J&K, the Northeastern states, and areas affected by the Naxals.
  • Trans-border crimes: In order to effectively address trans-border crimes that have an impact on national security in larger areas of the bordering states, BSF was granted powers to arrest, search, and seize a person, vessel, or premises back in 1969 under the Indian Passport Act, Customs Act, Arms Act, NPSD Act, and CrPC. One example would be the smuggling of illegal goods along the country’s western and eastern borders, including weapons, ammunition, and drugs.
  • Information gathering: The BSF is not only tasked with stopping criminals while they are committing transnational crimes at the zero line; they also need to obtain information to take down the network and any accomplices that are operating from their side of the region, both on their own and with the assistance of the local police.

Challenges before BSF in dealing with illegal migration and cross-border crimes:

  • Porous border: The most porous section of India’s borders in the entire eastern theatre runs from the Sunderbans in the south to Malda in the north along the India-Bangladesh border, making it difficult to regulate.
  • Despite the deployment of more Border Security Force (BSF) units, the construction of a border fence, and the use of modern technologies, challenges on both our eastern and western borders have multiplied over the last four decades.
  • Trans-border crimes are no longer limited to small-scale smuggling of locally produced goods or a few food items; large-scale illegal migration of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis into India, as well as the smuggling of weapons, drugs, and counterfeit currency into India pose a serious threat to our economy and security.
  • Enhanced communication and connectivity: Trans-border criminals now have the benefit of operating from more remote locations due to the growth in communication, connectivity, and mobility. The BSF and the local police work closely together most of the time, however this causes delays in the BSF’s operating efficiency.
  • Broader criminal outreach: Although the BSF is in charge of stopping trans-border crimes, these criminals’ domain of influence also includes the hinterlands. Trans-border criminals were deftly operating from locations beyond of BSF’s control in places like West Bengal.
Way Forward:
  • Desired State Consent: Whenever possible, the Union Government should confer with the State Government before deploying the armed forces.
  • State Self-Reliance: Every State Government should develop both short- and long-term strategies to bolster its Armed Police in consultation with the Union Government.
  • Regional Arrangements: In times of necessity, neighbouring states may decide to use each other’s armed police as a standing agreement. Zonal Councils offer an appropriate forum for states within a zone to come to these kinds of accords.


Hence, in order to counter threats from upgraded threats or subterranean tunnels, BSF must overcome these obstacles and further solidify its border dominance through the employment of drones and other tools. More coordinated efforts at all levels will be necessary to handle the additional responsibilities.