The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice on the petitions filed by the NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the Commissioner of Delhi Police.
A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was considering two petitions filed by the CPIL - one a writ petition filed against the Central Government order appointing Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner, and the other a special leave petition filed against the Delhi High Court's judgment which rejected the challenge against Asthana's appointment.
As soon as the matter was taken, the bench told Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the CPIL, that it was issuing notice.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta appeared for the Union of India and Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Rakesh Asthana. The Court directed that counter-affidavits be filed within 2 weeks and listed the matter after that.
Asthana, a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS Officer, was appointed as Delhi Police Commissioner on July 27, just four days before he was scheduled to retire from service. The Union Home Ministry, which oversees the Delhi Police, granted Mr Asthana one year's extension in service "in public interest".
The plea moved through Advocate Prashant Bhushan avers that just four days before this retirement, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued the order of his appointment as Delhi Police Commissioner thereby extending his service initially for a period of one year beyond the date of his superannuation on 31.07.2021.
The plea states that the appointment order is in clear and blatant breach of the directions passed by Apex Court in the Prakash Singh case (2006) 8 SCC 1 as:
- Asthana did not have a minimum residual tenure of six months;
- No UPSC panel was formed for the appointment of Delhi Police Commissioner; and
- The criteria of having a minimum tenure of two years had been ignored
The Delhi High Court, in its October 12 judgment dismissing the challenge against Asthana's appointment, held that the Prakash Singh guidelines are applicable only to states and have no application for appointment of Commissioners/Police Heads of Union Territories falling under the AGMUT Cadre.
The High Court also held that Delhi being the national capital, the Central Government must be given larger leeway in appointing an experienced and competent officer as the Police Commissioner.
"It ought to be kept in mind that Delhi, being the Capital of India, has a unique, special and specific requirement. It has witnessed several untoward incidences and extremely challenging law and order situations/riots/crimes, which have an international implication, which in the wisdom of the Central Government necessitated appointment of an experienced officer possessing diverse and multifarious experience of heading a large Para-Military Security Force apart from other factors", the division bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh observed.
The High Court delivered the judgment in a writ petition filed by one person named Sadre Alam. Earlier, CPIL had approached the Supreme Court with its petition under Article 32. However, a bench led by the Chief Justice of India asked CPIL to approach the High Court, having regard to the pendency of the challenge there, and requested the High Court to decide the issue expeditiously.