Land policies in West Bengal slowing Indo-Bangladesh border fencing work: Centre to SC

Solicitor General cites non-adoption by the State of the upgraded Land Acquisition Act of 2013, and its direct land purchase as having hindered efforts to secure the border with Bangladesh

December 12, 2023 10:11 pm | Updated 10:11 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the India-Bangladesh international border. Image used for representation purpose only.

A view of the India-Bangladesh international border. Image used for representation purpose only.

The Centre in the Supreme Court on Tuesday blamed the policies followed by the West Bengal government for creating a hurdle in the timely completion of fencing the Indo-Bangladesh border to prevent infiltrators and illegal immigrants from entering the country.

Appearing before a Constitution Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, said the “far slower and more complex” land acquisition policies in West Bengal had been a thorn in the side of even a vital national security project such as border-fencing.

The Centre said the border was a total length of 4,096.7 km. It was porous, criss-crossed by rivers, and the terrain was hilly. The border passed through the States of West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, and Assam. The government highlighted that West Bengal alone shared 2,216.7 km of the border with Bangladesh.

Mr. Mehta said pending land acquisition issues with the West Bengal government; the non-adoption by the State of the upgraded Land Acquisition Act of 2013, which allows the government to take possession of land for public purpose free from all encumbrances; and the State’s direct land purchase policy have all substantially hindered efforts by the Centre to secure the border with Bangladesh.

The Solicitor General was responding to queries posed by a Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud. The Bench is hearing a series of petitions challenging the validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act. This special provision permitted immigrants from Bangladesh who had entered into Assam between 1966-71 to become Indian citizens. Assam shares a 263 km border with Bangladesh.

The Bench has reserved the case against Section 6A for judgment.

On December 7, the Constitution Bench had wanted details about the influx of illegals from Bangladesh and the steps taken by the Centre to detect and deport them according to law.

Mr. Mehta said the detection, detention and deportation of foreign nationals who had entered India clandestinely was a “complex ongoing process”.

However, he said over 3.3 lakh cases of illegal immigration grants were disposed of and 97,714 were still pending as on October 31, 2023.

In Assam alone, there were a 100 foreign tribunals functioning to decide cases of illegal immigration, and the Centre has released a total amount of ₹ 122 crore for their functioning, the Solicitor General noted.

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