Asthana made Delhi Police chief considering riots, crimes, MHA tells SC

Rakesh Asthana.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has informed the Supreme Court that Indian Police Service officer Rakesh Asthana was granted extension of service and appointed Delhi Police Commissioner as a “special case of public interest” taking into consideration riots, crimes and “certain untoward and extremely challenging public order problems” with “international implications” witnessed in the Capital.

“Rakesh Asthana, IPS, has been granted extension of service and has been appointed the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, initially for a period of one year beyond the date of superannuation on July 31, 2021 or until further orders, whichever is earlier, in relaxation of 16(1) of the AIS (DCRB) Rules, 1958 as a special case in public interest,” the Ministry said in an affidavit.

The government dismissed the petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, challenging the appointment as an “abuse of process of law and manifestly an outcome of some personal vendetta against the incumbent Police Commissioner”.

Mr. Asthana, who is also a respondent in the case, in a separate affidavit, said the petitions were filed in the court following a scathing social media campaign to malign his reputation. He echoed the government’s version that the petitioner harboured a personal vendetta against him. He maintained that the petitioner was indulging in “selective criticism”. The law and order situation in Delhi was complex, he noted.

On Wednesday, a Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud adjourned the case to January 11.

‘Personal vendetta’

The MHA has argued that eight Delhi Police Commissioners had been appointed by the same procedure without any complaints from the petitioner. It accused the petitioner of harbouring a personal vendetta against Mr. Asthana, who was shifted from the Gujarat cadre.

“Delhi being the capital of the country has a specific and special requirement which witnessed certain untoward and extremely challenging public order problems/riots/crimes which have an international implication. This necessitated appointment of an experienced officer having diverse, multifarious experience of heading a police force in any large State/Central Investigating Agency/Para-military Security Forces, etc, to head the Delhi Police force,” its affidavit reasoned.

The competent authority felt it necessary to have an experienced police officer like Mr. Asthana to head the Delhi force to “effectively negotiate and handle the peculiar policing needs, the law and order situation in the National Capital of GNCT of Delhi”, the MHA said.

‘No irregularity’

The Ministry denied any procedural irregularity/non-compliance of the applicable policy for effectuating inter-cadre deputation of Mr. Asthana from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre.

“No fault can be found in appointment of Mr. Asthana as Commissioner of Delhi Police, as alleged or otherwise, by the petitioner. It is submitted that his inter-cadre deputation and the relaxation under Rule 16 of AIS (DCRB) Rules, 1958 stems out from its need in public interest which are more elaborately recorded in the original file pertaining to his appointment,” it submitted.

A bare perusal of the file shows that the “best attempt” was made to find a suitable IPS officer to head the Delhi Police. A thorough search was made by the competent authority from the options available in the AGMUT cadre.

“Since AGMUT cadre being a cadre comprising Union Territory and small northeastern States, it was felt that requisite experience of working and supervising the central investigating agency/paramilitary 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 and 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 and to provide effective policing on the recent law and order situation which arose in the National Capital Territory of Delhi,” the affidavit explained.

Relaxation of rules

The Ministry reasoned that in case of hardship faced by the Central government/Cadre Controlling Authority (CCA) in finding a suitable officer for a specific post with special requirements within a cadre, it can relax the rules and grant extension of service to an officer in exercise of powers conferred to it under Rule 3 of the Residuary Rules and Section 21 of the General Clauses Act.

Besides, the Ministry contended, the court’s 2006 judgment in Prakash Singh’s case was restricted to appointments of DGPs in States and did not extend to the Union Territories.

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Printable version | May 11, 2022 9:22:27 pm |