The Centre has told the Delhi High Court that Rakesh Asthana was appointed as the police commissioner of the national capital in “public interest”, Live Law reported on Thursday.

In an affidavit, the Centre said there was a “compelling need” to appoint someone to the post with diverse and vast experience of heading a large police force along with political and public order experience of supervising the central investigating agencies and the paramilitary forces.

Asthana was appointed to the post just four days before he was set to retire as the director general of the Border Security Force on July 31. He took charge as the commissioner on July 28. However, petitions were filed in the Delhi High Court challenging the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Appointments Committee of Cabinet.

The government justified Asthana’s appointment in the affidavit saying Delhi has been witnessing law and order as well as policing problems that have national security and cross border implications.

Asthana had also worked as the special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, where 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.

In its affidavit filed through lawyer Amit Mahajan, the government also said that the plea in contention by a man named Sadre Alam was exact reproduction of the petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a non-governmental organisation, before the Supreme Court.

“This is a gross abuse of process of law and cannot be lightly brushed aside as plagiarism,” the affidavit said. “The fact that a petition is a copy-paste of another petition undisputedly show that the present petitioner [Alam] has not applied his mind and the affidavit which hides the real source of information is manifestly wrong.”

Hearing the petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation on August 25, the Supreme Court had allowed the non-governmental organisation to approach the High Court with its plea.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, had also argued before the Supreme Court that Alam’s petition was a “copy-paste” of his client’s plea. Bhushan had said that such pleas were filed in collusion with the government to disable genuine petitioners.

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation had 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, according to the conditions laid down for appointment in the verdict. Asthana was also not appointed for a minimum of two years of service.

Alam has also made similar arguments in his petition and said appointing Asthana for the post was “completely illegal on multiple grounds”.

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