Eleven days after the Pathankot terror attack, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday pulled up the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) for not acting on a Border Security Force (BSF) report highlighting the urgency of sealing the international border (IB) and improving surveillance infrastructure along the India-Pakistan border in Punjab.
During the resumed hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) on the drug menace in Punjab, the Union government counsel admitted that a meeting was held between the MHA and the BSF on March 26, 2014, on recommendations by the latter about improving surveillance and thwarting smuggling from across the border. But thereafter, no substantive action was taken by the MHA. The second meeting was held on December 31, 2015, and that too on repeated court orders. The court was told that the report had been sent to a technical committee for examination. The BSF report seeking sealing of the international border, among other measures, in Punjab was sent to the MHA in 2014.
The court bench of justice Surya Kant and justice PB Bajanthri stated that it demonstrated the MHA’s “casual approach” on a vital and sensitive issue as no timeframe was given for the technical committee nor was any effort on record to suggest that efforts were being made to secure funds for the purpose from the finance ministry.
“The manner in which the MHA has conducted itself is bordering on contempt. The last opportunity is granted to take up the matter and file a categorical affidavit on measures required to be taken as per recommendations of the BSF,” the bench said, adding that it would be constrained to take action against officials who were responsible for the lax job as no “effective steps” had been taken since 2014.
Six Pakistani terrorists had sneaked into India and attacked the Pathankot airbase on January 2. Seven defence personnel had died in the counter-terror operation. In 2015, a terror attack had taken place at Dinanagar in the border district of Gurdaspur.
“Such incidents would continue to happen as governments are not serious enough on the issue. The route used to supply drugs is being exploited by terrorists. I had warned about it when I served in Punjab,” former director general of police (DGP, jails), Punjab, Shashi Kant alleged before the court, even as the MHA on Wednesday failed to spell out the action taken on the BSF report and sought more time.
Status report sought on extradition efforts
The court bench also directed the ministry of external affairs to file a status report on efforts being made by it for the extradition of six persons named by the Punjab Police in the Jagdish Bhola drug racket case and gave Punjab a week to supply requisite information.
During the hearing, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also submitted a status report, which was taken on record. The court was miffed over the handling of the matter by the central government counsel as well and observed that they had not been properly briefed and junior counsel were deputed to handle the issue of vital importance.
Earlier, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) told the court that keeping in view the drug menace, it had increased intelligence officers’ strength in the region; in Chandigarh, 33 officers had been posted now against 17 serving earlier. In Amritsar, the strength of officers had been increased from six to seven, the NCB said.