The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Centre on a plea challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the commissioner of Delhi Police, reported Live Law. The court will hear the matter again on September 8.

The petition was filed by one Sadre Alam through advocate BS Bagga, challenging the Centre’s order appointing Asthana as the Delhi Police chief on July 27. Alam sought to quash the central government’s decision.

Asthana had a controversial stint as the special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. His name also cropped up in a major controversy related to a bribery case in 2018. However, he was cleared of all charges in February 2020.

Asthana was appointed the Delhi Police chief 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 High Court bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh also allowed the intervention application filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.

The non-governmental organisation had moved the Supreme Court initially. On August 25, the top court had asked the High Court to decide on the matter within two weeks.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for CPIL, on Wednesday claimed that the new petitioner, Alam, has copied his client’s plea. Bhushan alleged that such pleas were filed in collusion with the government to undermine genuine petitioners.

“My petition is pending before Supreme Court,” Bhushan said, according to Bar and Bench. “I do not wish to argue here. This petition must be dismissed with exemplary costs. It violates all rules of the court.”

However, Alam’s counsel denied they had copied the Centre for Public Interest Litigation’s plea. The court then allowed the intervention application and issued a notice in the matter.

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. In September 2006, the Supreme Court had directed all states and Union Territories to introduce reforms to ensure that the police could do their work without worrying about political interference.

Asthana did not have a minimum tenure of six months left in his service, and no Union Public Service Commission committee was formed to appoint him – the conditions laid down for appointment in the verdict. Asthana was also not appointed for a minimum of two years of service.

Asthana’s appointment had drawn criticism from the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress. On July 29, the Delhi Assembly passed a resolution opposing his appointment.

SG flags allegations of plagiarism

During the hearing in the High Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, urged the court to inquire into the allegations that the plea had been plagiarised, reported Live Law.

“It is too much of a coincidence that even typographical errors are the same,” Mehta said. He added that “this inter-meddling” needs to stop. “Mr Bhushan’s application must be admitted and Mr Alam must be answerable to this court,” Mehta said.

The solicitor general then criticised both the pleas and asked what interest the petitioners have in Asthana’s appointment. “Let us prevent another professional PIL petitioner to come before the court and do this,” Mehta said. “What are the sources of this inspiration to challenge appointments?”