Delhi HC rejects plea challenging appointment of Rakesh Asthana as Delhi Police Commissioner

THE Delhi High Court Tuesday upheld the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as Delhi Police Commissioner and rejected all the petitions seeking to quash his appointment.

A division bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh pronounced the order to this effect.

The bench ruled that the Supreme Court judgments in Prakash Singh’s Case did not apply to the appointment of Commissioner of Police, Delhi, and thus there was no need to send the case to the Union Public Service Commission(UPSC) for empanelment nor was Asthana required to have a residuary service of six months, before his superannuation, at the time of his appointment as Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

“It bears repetition to state that the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court were only intended to apply with respect to the appointments of the DGPs in the respective States and thus there is no violation of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Both the aforesaid decisions have all along been interpreted and understood as being applicable to the States, for appointment of Police Officers of the rank of DGP and above,” the high court held.

The court highlighted that Delhi, being India’s capital, had a unique, special and specific requirement. It had witnessed several untoward incidents and extremely challenging law and order situations/riots/crimes, which had international implications, which in the wisdom of the Central Government necessitated the appointment of an experienced officer possessing the diverse experience of heading a large para-military security force, apart from other factors.

“The Executive, which is responsible for the law and order situation in the National Capital, must have a reasonable discretion to select an officer it finds more suitable, based upon the career graph of such an officer, unless there is anything adverse in the service career of such an officer”, the court said.

Asthana, a 1984 Gujarat-cadre officer and former Border Security Force Director General, was on July 27 deputed to AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Union Territory) cadre and granted an extension of service for a period of one year beyond his date of retirement, which was July 31.

On August 25, the Supreme Court asked the Delhi High Court to decide within two weeks a petition challenging Asthana’s appointment as the Delhi Police Commissioner.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant had passed the order in a petition filed by the NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking to quash the appointment.

The high court was already examining a similar petition filed by one Sadre Alam.

Appearing for the CPIL, advocate Prashant Bhushan argued that there had been an egregious violation of the rule of law in the appointment of Asthana, and that the government had shown a brazen disregard for the rule of law.

Bhushan contended that Asthana’s appointment order was in clear violation of the Supreme Court’s 2006 Prakash Singh judgment as Asthana did not have a minimum residual tenure of six months. In addition, no Union Public Service Commission panel was formed for the appointment of the Delhi Police Commissioner even as the criteria of having a minimum tenure of two years had also been ignored.

Also read: Police Reforms via Prakash Singh judgment: A boon or a bane?

In its affidavit filed with the Delhi high court, the union government said that the appointment was made in “public interest” as “no individual with the specific experience of handling other investigating agencies or paramilitary forces was available.

Click here to read the order