In a move aimed at empowering paramilitary forces to operate independently in hotspots of violence, the Centre has given them powers to raid, search and arrest armed insurgents including naxals.
Central police forces — deployed at the request of state governments — have not had legal powers in their areas of deployment and drew their authority to act from the state police.
This created a high level of dependence on state police, which one officer termed as “unhealthy subservience”.
He explained the central police forces — say Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel deployed in West Bengal’s Lalgarh region — earlier did not have the powers to even search a vehicle carrying armed cadres of the ruling CPM or Maoists, seize the weapons and arrest them on their own.
The home ministry notification under the Arms Act, however, now enables paramilitary personnel to search and if necessary, arrest anyone with a weapon in their areas.
The notification empowers Assistant Commandants and above as well as subordinate officers above the rank of sub-inspector to exercise powers to perform the duties under sections 19, 22 and 23 whereever they are deployed or called upon, a CRPF officer said.
These three sections empower police officers to demand arms licence of anyone carrying a weapon and arrest him/her if necessary, lead search operations and “stop and search” any means of conveyance to seize arms or ammunition found.
He said the notification, issued last November, had recently been communicated to all field units.
BSF director general Raman Srivastava had recently acknowledged that the force had approached the home ministry for legal measures to empower personnel. He had, however, refused to spell out the powers they were looking at. “If people realise how powerless the central forces are on their own, our personnel are going to really find it difficult to operate,” a BSF officer had later explained.