Delhi HC Dismisses Plea Challenging Rakesh Asthana's Appointment as Police Commissioner

The plea, filed by one Sadre Alam, was accused by Prashant Bhushan of copy-pasting from another petition that was filed before the Supreme Court.

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New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as city police commissioner.

The order was pronounced by a bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh on a petition by lawyer Sadre Alam. The bench had reserved its order on September 27. A full copy of the order was not immediately available.

The NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) had intervened in the petition through senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, challenging Asthana’s appointment.

According to LiveLaw, the CPIL had moved the Supreme Court but was asked by the top court to first move the Delhi high court as Alam’s petition was already pending.

The petitioner had prayed for quashing of the July 27 order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs appointing Asthana as the Delhi police commissioner, and also the order granting inter-cadre deputation and extension of service to him.

“The impugned orders [of the MHA] are in clear and blatant breach of the directions passed by the Supreme Court of India in the Prakash Singh case as respondent no.2 [Asthana] did not have a minimum residual tenure of six months; no UPSC panel was formed for appointment of Delhi Police Commissioner; and the criteria of having a minimum tenure of two years has been ignored,” the plea had submitted.

The Union government, in its affidavit, has said that the appointment of Asthana as the Delhi police commissioner and the extension of his service tenure was done in public interest, keeping in mind the diverse law and order challenges in the national capital, which have national security implications as well as international and cross border implications.

Alam was accused by Bhushan of copy-pasting from the CPIL’s petition before the Supreme Court, even describing it as an ‘ambush petition’ in the Supreme Court.

According to LiveLaw, the court was also of the same opinion, observing:

“The judges must be enlightened by the lawyer but you have simply copied without understanding. You should bring your independent submissions. If you are copying, you should copy 5%. You can’t copy 90%. This time we have tolerated…”

Political appointee?

Allegations have also been levelled against the Centre that Asthana is a “political appointee”. In 2017, his appointment to the CBI was challenged by the NGO Common Cause, alleging his involvement with Sterling Biotech, a company being probed by the investigating agency for money laundering.

After then CBI director Alok Verma ordered the filing of a criminal case against Asthana in October 2018, who was special director of the agency at the time, the duo were removed in a midnight decision made by the Prime Minister’s Office. Asthana was then made the director-general of the Border Security Force (BSF).

As part of its reporting for the Pegasus Project, The Wire had revealed that Verma and Asthana’s phone numbers appear on a list of potential targets for surveillance. Their numbers appear on the list hours after the midnight decision to remove them was taken.

(With PTI inputs)