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Monday, September 27, 2021

Centre opposes PIL challenging Asthana’s appointment: ‘This is not Jantar Mantar or Ramlila Maidan where anybody can say whatever he feels like’

The petition before HC has been filed by Sadre Alam and seeks to quash Asthana’s appointment, inter-cadre deputation, and extension of service.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: September 2, 2021 7:57:44 am
A 1984 Gujarat-cadre officer and former DG BSF, Asthana was appointed Delhi CP on July 27 up to July 31, 2022. (Express File Photo by Amit Mehra)

The Delhi High Court Wednesday issued a notice to the Centre and IPS officer Rakesh Asthana on a PIL challenging his appointment as Delhi Commissioner of Police. Opposing the PIL, the Centre argued that the court was not a public platform where anyone can say anything.

The division bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh listed the case for hearing on September 8. The Centre told the court that it will hear a reply to the petition. The court also allowed an intervention application by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) in the case. The Supreme Court last week requested the High Court to decide the case within two weeks.

The petition before HC has been filed by Sadre Alam and seeks to quash Asthana’s appointment, inter-cadre deputation, and extension of service. CPIL, in its application filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, has alleged that Alam’s petition was a “total copy-paste” of the case filed by it before the Supreme Court on July 6. Alam has denied the allegations.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre Wednesday, sought investigation and action against Alam for the alleged plagiarism. “He should be immediately prevented because both (Alam and CPIL) are intermeddlers. We would not like to deal with two intermeddlers. At least one should be stopped. He seems to have copied which is a dangerous path he has chosen. It is in the national interest that your lordship stops him,” submitted Mehta.

“Any intermeddler cannot come before your lordships. Your lordships, court is not a public platform. This is not a Jantar Mantar or Ramlila Maidan where anybody gets up and starts saying whatever he feels like. These are all appointments made by statutory authorities, appointments of responsible officers, you may like, you may not like,” continued Mehta.

He also alleged that a very systemic pattern was emerging: “Some selected few web portals would first publish a news item based on which every appointment must pass through the muster of Mr (Prashant) Bhushan first. Otherwise, he comes before the court and makes all kinds of allegations. We will say that on an affidavit if need be.”

When the court allowed CPIL to argue in Alam’s case, Bhushan submitted that CPIL’s petition against Asthana’s appointment was already pending before the Supreme Court and he did not want to argue the matter before the High Court. Bhushan submitted that the application was filed only to inform the court about the plagiarism in Alam’s petition and to seek its dismissal.

A 1984 Gujarat-cadre officer and former DG BSF, Asthana on July 27 was deputed to AGMUT cadre and granted an extension of service for a period of one year beyond his date of retirement, which was July 31. He was also appointed Delhi CP on July 27 up to July 31, 2022.

Alam, a practising advocate, in the petition filed through advocate B S Bagga, has argued that the MHA’s decision was in violation of the directions issued by Supreme Court in Prakash Singh case and of the policy regarding inter-cadre deputation of All India Service Officers.

“The impugned orders are in clear and blatant breach of the directions passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Prakash Singh case (i) Respondent No.2 (Asthana) did not have a minimum residual tenure of six months; (ii) no UPSC panel was formed for appointment of Delhi Police Commissioner; and (iii) the criteria of having a minimum tenure of two years’ has been ignored,” the petition contends.

Submitting that the post of Delhi CP is akin to the post of DGP of a state, Alam has argued that Asthana was not empaneled by the UPSC as directed in the Prakash Singh case and also he did not have a residual tenure of six months of service at the time of his appointment since he was to retire within four days. He has also argued that Prakash Singh directions provide for a minimum of two years’ tenure but Asthana has been appointed for a period of one year only.

“That the High-Powered Committee comprising the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister, and the Leader of Opposition, in its meeting held on 24.05.2021, rejected the central government’s attempt to appoint the same IPS officer as the CBI Director on the basis of the ‘six-month rule’ as laid down in Prakash Singh. The appointment of Respondent No. 2 to the post of Commissioner of Police, Delhi must be set aside on the same principle,” the petition argues further.

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