Updated: July 29, 2021 9:22:03 pm
The ripples arising out of the surprise appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the Commissioner of Delhi Police reached the Delhi Assembly on Thursday, with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) flaying the Centre’s move over “reasonable apprehensions” that he will be used to “create a reign of terror” against the party.
Opposing the decision of the Centre, AAP MLA Sanjeev Jha tabled a resolution, which was adopted after a brief discussion, during which six AAP MLAs, including Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain, launched a scathing attack on Asthana. Meanwhile, BJP’s Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, who is the leader of opposition, hailed the Centre over the appointment.
The resolution directs the Delhi government to convey to the MHA to withdraw the July 27 order appointing Asthana and launch a fresh process to pick another officer to replace him.
The AAP MLAs alleged that the appointment amounted to violation of a 2019 Supreme Court judgment in the Prakash Singh vs Union of India case that only officers who have at least six months of service left before retirement should be considered for the post of Director General of Police (DGP). While in Delhi Police, the head of the force is the Commissioner, in most states, the head is the DGP.
“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 Delhi Police. 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,” the resolution said.
Participating in the discussion, AAP MLA Bhupinder Singh Joon said, “If the Centre does not consider the post of DGP as equivalent to Commissioner of Delhi Police, then it is a demotion for Asthana as he has already served as DG, BSF and if the post of CP is equal to that of a DGP, then it is a clear violation of the SC order.”
The SC bench had said at the time that the “recommendation for appointment to the post of DGP by the Union Public Service Commission and preparation of panel should be purely on the basis of merit from officers who have a minimum residual tenure of six months i.e. officers who have at least six months of service prior to retirement”.
Asthana, who was set to retire on July 31, has been given a year-long extension. Burari MLA Jha alleged 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 also pointed out that the post of commissioner of Delhi Police belongs to the AGMUT cadre of the Indian Police Service (IPS). “This appointment of a controversial Gujarat cadre officer, who has faced multiple inquiries on serious charges in the past, will only bring Delhi Police into controversies,” it states.
In their speeches the AAP MLAs also expressed surprise over the fact that Asthana was made the police commissioner despite being ruled out from the panel of names that were in contention to head the CBI. Asthana’s name was dropped after Chief Justice of India NV Ramana had cited the 2019 SC order.
This found a mention in the assembly resolution, as did Asthana’s bitter feud with former CBI director Alok Verma in 2018. Asthana was then posted as a special director in the agency. Incidentally, Verma has also served as the Delhi Police Commissioner.
“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 Delhi Police,” adds the resolution.
The AAP MLAs also levelled charges of corruption against Asthana, who is a 1984-batch IPS. “During his daughter’s marriage in 2016 at Vadodara, guests were put up in five-star hotels across the city. Curiously, he was not charged a penny for the expenses,” Matiala MLA Gulab Singh alleged.
BJP MLA Bidhuri opposed the resolution, stressing on Asthana’s credentials as a police officer. The IPS official was awarded the Police Medal for meritorious service during the term of the UPA II government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Bidhuri said.
“In 2002, 59 kar sewaks were burnt to death. Asthana investigated the case and sent the accused to jail. 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. He also acted against influential people indulging in drugs in connection with the Sushant Singh Rajput case,” Bidhuri said.
Asthana probed the Godhra train carnage as the Deputy Inspector General of Police of the Criminal Investigation Department (Crime and Railways). As reported by The Indian Express, Asthana led the probe into the train burning as a “pre-planned conspiracy”, which was first attributed to the ISI, then to SIMI and later alleged to be part of a “narco-terrorism” plan. None of these theories sustained. In 2011, a trial court acquitted 63 of the 94 accused, among them Maulana Umarji, who was named as the “mastermind” in the chargesheet.
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