Updated: July 30, 2021 3:28:16 pm
The Delhi Assembly Thursday adopted a private member resolution opposing the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the Commissioner of Delhi Police, with the ruling AAP saying there were “reasonable apprehensions” that he will be used to “create a reign of terror” by going after the party.
AAP MLA Sanjeev Jha tabled the resolution, which directs the Delhi government to convey to the Union Home Ministry that the surprise July 27 order appointing Asthana be withdrawn and a fresh process started to pick another officer.
The resolution was adopted after a brief discussion, during which six AAP MLAs, including Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, attacked Asthana. Leader of the Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri of the BJP hailed the Centre for the appointment.
The AAP’s main argument is that Asthana’s appointment violates a 2019 Supreme Court judgement in the Prakash Singh vs Union of India case, which directed that only officers with at least six months of service left before retirement should be considered for the post of Director General of Police (DGP). While in most states, the DGP leads the police force, the Delhi Police is headed by a Commissioner.
Asthana, who was to retire on July 31, has been given a year’s extension.
Recently, his name had been ruled out as CBI chief by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana citing the 2019 SC order.
“It is beyond any reasonable understanding as to why a controversial officer who was removed by this Central government from the post of Special Director, CBI, in October 2018, and was not considered fit for the post of CBI Director only very recently, is being imposed on the Delhi Police,” the resolution says.
It adds, “Given the past track record of this officer, there is reasonable apprehension that the Central government will use him for foisting false cases on political rivals to create a reign of terror in the national capital. Such a controversial individual should NOT be heading the police force in the country’s national capital.”
Speaking to reporters, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called Asthana’s appointment as contrary to the Supreme Court order. “Appointments should be done based on the guidelines laid out by the apex court. I believe he could not be made the CBI Director as he was not eligible for the post… Under the same reason, he is ineligible to occupy the post of the Commissioner.”
Burari MLA Sanjeev Jha said Asthana, “who has been the blue-eyed boy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, has been sent on a “special mission to Delhi”. “A Gujarat-cadre officer who has no idea about Delhi’s crime and law and order situation has been made its police chief, overlooking officers with decades of experience. This also amounts to insulting the AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory) cadre.”
The resolution states that given that Asthana “has faced multiple inquiries on serious charges”, the appointment will embroil the Delhi Police in controversies.
It also mentions the bitter feud within the CBI when Asthana was Special Director and Alok Verma the Director. Incidentally, Verma too served as Delhi Police Commissioner.
Matiala MLA Gulab Singh referred to the corruption charges against Asthana, including those related to his daughter’s wedding in 2016 at Vadodara.
BJP MLA Bidhuri stressed Asthana’s credentials as a police officer, noting that he had got the Police Medal for meritorious service under the UPA-II government. He also mentioned his role in investigating the 2002 Godhra train burning deaths.
“He punished those who killed Ram Bhakts, and if someone is pained by that, then what can one say? As SP, CBI, at Dhanbad, he had arrested a very senior official over charges of bribery. He exposed the fodder scam and acted against the then sitting CM of Bihar (Lalu Prasad). He also acted against influential people indulging in drugs, in connection with the Sushant Singh Rajput case,” Bidhuri said.
Asthana had probed the Godhra incident as the DIG, CID, Crime and Railways. According to a report in The Indian Express, Asthana’s probe determined it to be a “pre-planned conspiracy”, which was first attributed to the ISI, then to SIMI and later to a “narco-terrorism” plan. In 2011, a trial court acquitted 63 of the 94 accused.
Sources said the decision to table the private member resolution was taken at the last minute, on Wednesday. Under the Delhi Assembly rules, a private member has to give notice for a resolution at least 12 days in advance. The Speaker can allow government resolutions at shorter notices, but generally private member resolutions are not allowed thus.
However, “in this case nearly the entire House agreed to move the resolution”, the source said. “See, the AAP could not have remained silent on the issue when even the Delhi Congress has been making a noise. Moreover, the appointment has been clearly made with certain objectives in mind. And when any controversial decision is taken by him, controversy is guaranteed… It is also aimed at sending a signal to the judiciary in the event of his appointment being challenged in court.”
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