Gujarat-cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Rakesh Asthana was appointed as the Delhi Police Commissioner in public interest, keeping in mind the diverse law and order challenges faced by the national capital, which have national security implications as well as international and cross-border implications, the Centre told the Delhi High Court today.
Defending Rakesh Asthana's appointment, the Centre in an affidavit, said that it felt a "compelling need" to “appoint a person as the head of the police force of Delhi, who had diverse and vast experience of heading a large police force in a large State having diverse political as well as public order problem/experience of working and supervising Central Investigating Agency(s) as well as para-military forces”.
“The prime consideration for the same was that Delhi being the capital of the country has been witnessing diverse and extremely challenging situations of public order/law and order situation/policing issues which not only had national security implications but also international/cross border implications,” said the affidavit filed by the Secretary, Union Home Ministry.
The Centre, in the affidavit filed through lawyer Amit Mahajan, said no fault can be found in the appointment of Mr Asthana as Delhi Police Commissioner, which was done in accordance with and after scrupulously following all the applicable rules and regulations.
The affidavit was filed in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which has sought the quashing of the July 27 order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs appointing Rakesh Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner and also the order granting inter-cadre deputation and extension of service to him just before his superannuation on July 31.
The Centre has contended that the plea is an “abuse of process of law and manifestly an outcome of some personal vendetta” while submitting that a PIL in service matter is not maintainable.
It said that the PIL, as well as the intervention of NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) – which has challenged Asthana's appointment before the Supreme Court, “deserves to be dismissed with exemplary costs”.
“The petitioner and the intervener are mere busybodies. Both the petitioner and more particularly the intervener who claims to be espousing a public cause never considered challenging the appointment of eight (8) erstwhile Police Commissioners though they were appointed in the same manner as is done in the case of Respondent No.2 (Asthana).
"Such a selective exhibition of 'public interest' speaks volumes about the motive behind filing this petition/intervention application/writ petition in the Supreme Court respectively by the petitioner /intervener only in case of the Respondent No 2,” the affidavit said.
The petition has contended that the appointment of Rakesh Asthana is in clear and blatant breach of the directions passed by the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case as the officer does not have a minimum residual tenure of six months and no Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) panel was formed for his appointment as the Delhi Police Commissioner.
It also contended that the High-Powered Committee comprising the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition, in its meeting held on May 24, 2021, rejected the Central government's attempt to appoint Mr Asthana as the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the basis of the six-month rule as laid down by the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh case.
The appointment of Rakesh Asthana to the post of the Commissioner of Police, Delhi must be set aside on the same principle, it said.
The petition with similar prayers which has been filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) before the Supreme Court has urged to direct the central government to produce the July 27 order it issued, approving the inter-cadre deputation of Rakesh Asthana from Gujarat cadre to AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Union Territory) cadre.
The petition has also urged the Supreme Court to set aside the Centre's order to extend Mr Asthana's service period.
On August 25, the Supreme Court had asked the high court to decide within two weeks the plea pending before it against the appointment of the senior IPS officer as Delhi Police Commissioner.
The matter was listed for hearing on Thursday but the concerned bench was not available and now it will be heard on September 20.