Appointment of Asthana done in public interest: Centre to HC

Rakesh Asthana   | Photo Credit: PTI

Defending the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as Delhi Police Commissioner, the Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that it was done in “public interest”, taking into account the Capital’s policing issues, which not only had national security but also cross-border implications.

The Centre, in an affidavit filed before the High Court, said that best attempts were made to find a suitable Indian Police Service (IPS) officer having diverse experience of policing in a vast State or Central Investigating Agency or National Security or para-military force from the options available in AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Mizoram Union Territories) cadre.

However, AGMUT cadre being a cadre comprising Union Territory and small north-eastern States, it was felt that requisite experience of working and supervising the central investigating agency/para-military force and police force of a large State having diverse political and law and order problem was lacking in the present pool of available officers, the Centre said.

“Hence in public interest, a decision was made by the Central government to have an officer who had experience in all the above fields to supervise Delhi Police force,” the Centre said.

Mr. Asthana took charge as the Commissioner of Delhi Police on July 28. His appointment came just days before his superannuation on July 31, and he will have a tenure of one year.

This is one of the few instances when an IPS officer outside of the AGMUT cadre has been appointed as Delhi Police chief.

Appointment contested

His appointment has been contested by one Sadre Alam who argued that the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) in appointing Mr. Asthana for the post was “completely illegal on multiple grounds”.

Mr. Alam said the appointment was “in clear and blatant breach” of the directions of the Supreme Court of India as Mr. Asthana “did not have a minimum residual tenure of six months'”, and that no Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) panel was formed for appointing Delhi Police Commissioner.

NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), too has moved a similar plea before the High Court. The NGO is, however, embroiled in a separate issue against Mr. Alam, who it claimed has copied the contents of its petition.

The Centre, responding to both the pleas, said there was no “procedural irregularity or any fundamental illegality” in appointing Mr. Asthana for the post. “Both inter-cadre deputation as well as extension of service of respondent no.2 [Mr Asthana] was granted by the Central government in public interest,” it added.

The Centre also questioned the purpose, motive and bona fide of Mr. Alam and the NGO in opposing Mr. Asthana’s appointment since they never considered challenging appointment of eight erstwhile Police Commissioners though they were appointed in the same manner as is done in this case.

The High Court will hear the case on September 20.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 3:34:45 PM |

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