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‘Likely to cause unrest among populace’, Punjab moves SC against increase in BSF’s jurisdiction

New Delhi, Dec 11, 2021- The Punjab government has moved the Supreme Court against the Centre’s decision to increase the territorial jurisdiction of Border Security Force (BSF) from 15 km to 50 km off international border for states including Punjab.

The original suit filed by the Punjab government under Article 131 of the Constitution challenged the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notification dated October 11, 2021. The state government contended that the notification violated the of Entries 1 (public order) and 2 (police) of List II (State List) of Schedule VII of the Constitution.

The suit, filed through advocate Ashok K. Mahajan, said: “The plaintiff submits that the effect and consequence of the aforesaid notification dated October 11, 2021 is that it amounts to encroachment upon the powers and role of the plaintiff – the state of Punjab – by the Centre in as much as more than 80 per cent area of the border districts, all the major towns and cities including all the district headquarters of these border districts of Punjab, fall within 50 km area from the Indo-Pakistan international border.”

The suit contended that the notification is ultra-vires the Constitution, as it defeats the purpose of Entry 1 and 2 of List-II of Schedule 7 of the Constitution and encroaches upon plaintiff’s plenary authority to legislate on issue which relate to or are necessary for the maintenance of public order and internal peace.

The state government argued that Centre has departed from the principle of federalism, as it has no power to make any laws in respect of the matters enumerated in List-II of Schedule 7 of the Constitution. “The plaintiff further states that the unilateral declaration under notification dated October 11, 2021, without consulting the plaintiff-state of Punjab or without conducting any consultative process is violative of the provisions of the Constitutionaa, added the suit.

It further added that BSF’s jurisdiction in Punjab has remained 15 km from the border in all the previous notifications issued by the MHA since 1969. The suit said Punjab’s geography and concerns are strikingly different from other border areas like Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The Punjab government said the border area in the state is densely populated, whereas the same in Gujarat and Rajasthan comprises saline marshes and desert land, respectively.

“In case of Punjab, the area is highly fertile, heavily populated and covers most of the physical areas forming part of the border districts of Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Fazlika etc. Moreever, geographically, the state of Punjab is small, but has a very potent history and, therefore, its case and concerns are distinguishable and no reason can justify the extension of jurisdiction to the belt of 50 km, which is likely to give rise to unrest among the populace, including the peasantry, which has to cross the barbed wire to cultivate their land along the borders,” said the suit.  (Agency)

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