New Delhi: The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday slammed the Centre over the appointment of Rakesh Asthana – against whom the then CBI director Alok Verma had pressed corruption and bribery charges – as the commissioner of Delhi Police, alleging the move was aimed at “harassing” party leaders.
Raising the issue in a short duration discussion on the first day of the monsoon session of the Delhi assembly, AAP MLA Sanjiv Jha moved a resolution terming Asthana’s appointment “unconstitutional” and against Supreme Court directions on appointment of officers who have fewer than six months to retire as police chief.
The resolution expressed “disapproval” against the controversial Gujarat-cadre officer being “forced upon Delhi” as its police commissioner.
The Union government had on Tuesday appointed Asthana as the Delhi Police commissioner, giving him a one-year extension on the new post just four days before his retirement.
Asthana, a 1984-batch IPS officer, was serving as the director-general of the Border Security Force and was due to retire on July 31.
In 2018, former CBI officers Alok Verma and Asthana were allegedly put on a list of possible targets for surveillance using the Israeli spyware Pegasus, which is sold only to governments, The Wire recently revealed.
On October 15, 2018, the CBI registered a criminal conspiracy and corruption case against Asthana, which led to a long investigation. The case was filed against Asthana and others when Alok Verma was the CBI director. Last year, Asthana was given a clean chit by the probe agency.
As special director at the CBI, Asthana was heading a special investigation team (SIT) which was responsible for some high-profile cases, including the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter case, the Vijay Mallya case, coal-scam related cases, Robert Vadra case, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Hooda’s land allocation case and the Dayanidhi Maran case.
He has also been associated with probes into some other high-profile cases, including the fodder scam, the Godhra train burning, the rape case against Asaram Bapu’s son Narayan Sai and the sedition case against Hardik Patel.
According to the Indian Express, the Congress also questioned the appointment of Asthana, saying it was against a Supreme Court judgment.
Jha also questioned Asthana’s knowledge of Delhi and policing in the city as he was a Gujarat-cadre officer.
Participating in the debate, AAP MLAs Gulab Singh, Akhilesh Pati Tripathi, Somnath Bharti and B.S. Joon, supported Jha’s resolution and alleged that Asthana was brought to Delhi to “muzzle and harass the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Tripathi asserted that AAP leaders and workers were not scared by Asthana’s appointment and added, “We are born out of revolution. We are not like the Congressmen in Gujarat.”
AAP MLA Bharti questioned the purpose behind Asthana’s appointment, alleging that he has been brought to harass AAP MLAs, councilors and the chief minister”.
Meanwhile, leader of Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri called Asthana an “honest and decorated” IPS officer who was awarded the President’s Police Medal twice.
“Rakesh Asthana successfully investigated the Godhra carnage and Purulia arms drop cases. He also investigated the land scam related to the son-in-law of a political party chief. The House should welcome his appointment,” he said.
The resolution was accepted by the House with a voice vote.
(With inputs from PTI)