The Supreme Court told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday to decide within two weeks on the plea challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the chief of Delhi Police, reported Live Law.
A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant gave the order on a petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a non-governmental organisation.
Asthana was appointed the Delhi Police chief on July 27, just four days before he was set to retire as the director general of the Border Security Force on July 31. The Ministry of Home Affairs had said that Asthana was granted a service extension of one year in “public interest”.
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation has argued that Asthana’s appointment violated the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Prakash Singh versus Union of India case.
Asthana did not have a minimum tenure of six months left in his service as well as no Union Public Service Commission committee was formed for appointing him – the conditions laid down for appointment in the verdict. Asthana was also not appointed for a minimum of two years of service.
The Delhi High Court is also hearing a petition against Asthana’s appointment. The petitioner before the High Court has also made similar arguments for the case.
During the hearing in the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that the NGO should also approach the High Court as it was hearing the matter.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, argued that the petition before the High Court is a “copy-paste” of his client’s plea. Bhushan said that such pleas were filed in collusion with the government to disable genuine petitioners, reported Bar and Bench.
To this, Justice Chandrachud said: “To obviate what your apprehension [are,] we can give liberty to file a substantive plea in high court so that later you have a substantive right of appeal.”
Chief Justice Ramana said that he had two problems with the case. “One is about my participation in the issue,” he said. “You [Bhushan] have mentioned in the petition I expressed views about the selection of this gentleman in the CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] chief selection.”
The second problem was related to the pendency of the petition before the High Court. For this, the court fixed the two-week time limit to adjudicate the matter. Mehta sought four weeks’ time for the Delhi High Court to deal with the case but the Supreme Court rejected the request.
Bhushan further submitted that there was “egregious violations of rules” in Asthana’s appointment. “I’ve never seen such [a] case where [the] government shows such brazen violation of rule of law,” Bhushan said. “He is given extension in violation of each and every rule. Four days before retirement he is appointed a police chief.”
The lawyer also cited the conditions laid down for the appointment in the police in the Prakash Singh case. “Each and every rule, each and every judgement of this hon’ble court, has been thrown to wind,” Bhushan said.
On Bhushan referring to the plea before the High Court as “ambush petitions”, the solicitor general said that the government has professional PIL Litigators, who file cases on behalf of people “who lost out in race”.
To this, the bench said that it does not want to get into the merits of the matter and passed the order.
Asthana’s appointment had drawn criticism from the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress. On July 29, the Delhi Assembly had passed a resolution against his appointment.
Asthana had a controversial stint as the special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. His name cropped up in a major controversy related to a bribery case in 2018. However, he was cleared of all charges in February 2020.