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BREAKING : Supreme Court Asks Delhi High Court To Decide Plea Challenging Rakesh Asthana's Appointment As Delhi Police Commissioner Within 2 Weeks

Srishti Ojha
25 Aug 2021 6:45 AM GMT
BREAKING : Supreme Court Asks Delhi High Court To Decide Plea Challenging Rakesh Asthanas Appointment As Delhi Police Commissioner Within 2 Weeks
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday requested the Delhi High Court to decide within two weeks the petition filed before it challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana IPS as the Delhi Police Commissioner.The Court issued this order while considering a writ petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 challenging the appointment of Asthana.A bench comprising Chief...

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday requested the Delhi High Court to decide within two weeks the petition filed before it challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana IPS as the Delhi Police Commissioner.

The Court issued this order while considering a writ petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 challenging the appointment of Asthana.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant gave liberty to the petitioner, CPIL, to intervene in the petition before the High Court.

"We request the Delhi High Court to consider the matter as early as possible in 2 weeks for us to have the benefit of High Court's judgement. Petitioner is at liberty to file intervention application", the bench stated in its order. The petition filed by CPIL is kept pending at the Supreme Court and is adjourned for two weeks.

CJI NV Ramana said that he has some reservation in hearing the matter as he had objected to the appointment of Asthana as the head of the CBI while participating in the High Powered Committee.

Though Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested for granting a period of at least 4 weeks for the High Court to decide the matter, the bench did not agree. The bench orally observed that "time is of the essence of the matter".

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the CPIL, submitted that the petition filed before Delhi High Court was an "ambush petition" which was a "copy-paste" from CPIL's petition.

The bench told Bhushan that to obviate his apprehensions, it is giving the petitioner-CPIL liberty to intervene in the petition before the Delhi High Court.

Court room exchange

When the matter was taken, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that a similar petition is pending before the Delhi High Court and hence the petitioner before the Supreme Court should also be asked to approach the High Court.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the CPIL, replied that the petition in the High Court was a "copy-paste" from the CPIL petition.

"It was filed through somebody else after we filed the petition here", Bhushan told the bench. He informed that the High Court yesterday adjourned the petition to the middle of September on being told about the petition pending in the Supreme Court.

The SG then submitted that the question was not whether Supreme Court or High Court should hear the matter but was about which fundamental right of the petitioner was violated so as to maintain the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.

In reply, Bhushan submitted that the petitions seeking quo-warranto can be filed under Article 32 and that the Supreme Court has earlier issued directions regarding the appointment of the CVC in a petition filed by the CPIL.

At this juncture, the judges had a discussion amongst themselves. After that, the CJI said that there were two issues. One issue was his own participation in the High Powered Committee, where he had objected to appointment of Asthana as CBI Chief. Second was the pendency of the petition before the High Court.

"There are two issues. One is about my participation in the issue. You have mentioned in the petition I expressed views about the selection of this gentleman in the CBI chief selection. Second thing..we are thinking, already, somebody has filed a petition in the High Court, rightly or wrongly. We understand that time is of the essence of the matter. So, we will fix a time limit of two weeks for High Court to decide the case. We will have the benefit of the High Court judgment too", the CJI said.

In reply, Bhushan said, "It is an unfortunate thing which has happened. An ambush petition has been filed. Ambush petitions are those petitions filed in collusion with the government to get a dismissal to prevent genuine petitioners from coming forward".

To allay the apprehensions of Bhushan, Justice Chandrachud said, "Now to obviate your apprehension, we will give you liberty to intervene in the High Court. The High Court petitionh will be disposed of within 2 weeks".

Bhushan submitted that "egregious violations of rules" have taken place in the appointment of Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner, which has resulted in the violation of the fundamental rights of all citizens.

"I've never seen such case where Government shows such brazen violation of rule of law. He is given extension in violation of each and every rule!! 4 days before retirement he is appointed a police chief!", Bhushan said.

Bhushan submitted that the conditions laid down by the Supreme Court in the Prakash Singh Badal case such as UPSC recommendation and minimum reminder of 6 months tenure have been flouted in the case of Asthana's appointment. "Each and every rule, each and every judgment of this hon'ble court, has been thrown to wind", Bhushan asserted.

In response, Solicitor General said, "So far  as ambush petitions are concerned, less said is better. We have professional PIL litigants, who file surrogate pleas at behest of people who lost out in race".

The bench interjected at this moment to say that it does not want to get into the merits of the matter, and passed the order.

Background of the petition.

Delhi Police Commissioner, Rakesh Asthana is a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer who took charge as Delhi Police Commissioner recently

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 post of Commissioner of Police in Delhi is akin to the post of DGP of a State and he is the Head of Police Force for the NCT of Delhi and therefore, the directions concerning the appointment to the post of DGP passed by this Hon'ble Court in the Prakash Singh case (supra) had to be followed by the Central Government while making the impugned appointment," states the plea.

The petitioner argued that the decision is in violation of a July 2018 judgment of the Supreme Court in the case Prakash Singh & Others v.Union of India which said that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) should, as far as possible, consider only those officers for such appointments who have two years of service left.

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".

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