The Delhi high court ruled on Tuesday that there was no irregularity, illegality or infirmity in the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as Delhi police commissioner and dismissed a PIL challenging his selection.
A bench of chief justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said that the procedure adopted for appointment of the 1984-batch IPS office was being followed for ‘nearly over a decade’ and some ‘free movement of joints’ has to be given to authorities in such matters in view of the unique requirements of the national capital.
“As many as 8 erstwhile police commissioners in Delhi, have been appointed by the central government since 2006 prior to the appointment of respondent No.2 (Asthana), following the same procedure as has been followed for appointment of respondent No.2 herein. There has never been any objection to the said appointments...either by the UPSC or any other party,” the court stated in its 77-page judgement.
The petitioner, lawyer Sadre Alam, sought quashing of the July 27 order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs appointing Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner while granting him inter-cadre deputation and extension of service by one year.
Delhi has witnessed challenging law and order situations, having international consequences, and thus in the wisdom of the Centre, there was a necessity to select an ‘experienced officer’ for the post.
The court further clarified that the Supreme Court's decision in Prakash Singh case, which mandated a minimum tenure for certain police officials and the constitution of a UPSC panel before selection, was not applicable to the appointment of Police Commissioner for Delhi but were ‘intended to apply only to the appointment of a state DGP.’
“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 incidents 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,” it said.
"As brought out in the counter affidavit by respondent No. 1 (Centre), the impugned order was passed keeping in background the aforesaid factors,” the court said.
“This court also finds merit in the contention of respondent No. 1 that Delhi, being the capital of India, has its own characteristics, peculiar factors, complexities and sensitivities, which are far lesser in any other commissionerate. Any untoward incident in the national capital or a law and order situation will have far reaching consequences, impact, repercussions and implications not only in India but across the International borders. Thus, it is imperative that ‘free movement of joints’ is given to the central government for appointment of commissioner of police, Delhi, keeping in mind the complexities obtaining in the capital,” it added.
The court also held that the Centre has the power under law to grant inter-cadre deputation and relax the service rules for permitting extension of service beyond the date of superannuation.
“We do not find any irregularity, illegality or infirmity in the action of respondent No.1 in appointing respondent No. 2, following the procedure followed for nearly over a decade,” the court ruled.
“(I)f a procedure has been followed by the central government since 2006...which has withstood the test of time, without any demur/objection/challenge in any court or forum of law, the same gains weightage. We accordingly see no reason to direct respondent No. 1 to deviate from the long practice and procedure followed for appointment of commissioner of police, Delhi... In our view, the justification and reasons given by respondent No. 1 for appointing Respondent No. 2 are plausible, calling for no interference in judicial review,” it added.
The petitioner had claimed that Asthana's appointment was in clear and blatant breach of the Supreme Court's directions in Prakash Singh case.
The Centre had said that Asthana's appointment and tenure extension was done in public interest and there were no suitable candidates for the post in the AGMUT IPC cadre.
The Centre submitted that the PIL, as well as the intervention of NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation -- which has challenged Asthana's appointment before the Supreme Court, ‘deserves to be dismissed with exemplary costs.’
Asthana told the court that there was a sustained social media campaign against him and the legal challenge to his appointment was an abuse of process of law, arising from vendetta.