There was a compelling need to appoint IPS Officer Rakesh Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner because Delhi, the nation's capital, has been experiencing challenging law and order situations and crimes that have had international implications, the Centre told Delhi high court in a reply filed on September 15.
North East Delhi witnessed intense communal riots in February 2020 which left 58 dead and hundreds injured.
"It is reiterated that Delhi being the capital of the country has a specific and special requirement which witnessed certain untoward and extremely challenging public order problems/riots/crimes which have an international implication. This necessitated the appointment of an experienced officer having diverse, multifarious experience of heading a Police Force in any large State/Central Investigation Agency/Para-military Security Forces etc to head the Delhi Police Force," the reply read.
The home ministry reply came on a plea challenging Asthana's appointment as Delhi's top cop on the grounds that it violated service conditions and Supreme Court guidelines in the 2006 Prakash Singh verdict. Home Ministry had appointed Asthana as Delhi's top cop on July 27, four days before his retirement.
Sadre Alam has challenged Asthana's appointment in the high court. Advocate Prashant Bhushan intervened in this matter and has also filed a similar challenge before the Supreme Court.
Delhi witnessed challenging law and order problems like riots
The home ministry, which controls Delhi Police, said that Asthana's service tenure was extended in the interest of public interest after considering the complexities and the sensitivities involved in dealing with law and order situations in the nation's capital.
The diverse and extremely challenging law and order situation which not only has national but international, cross border implications was the prime consideration to appoint Asthana as Delhi's police commissioner, it added.
Apart from being the capital of the country, any incident happening here has far-reaching impacts and implications not only throughout the country but beyond the borders. Thus, any statutory provision or any other regime deserves to be read in such a way that leeway is given to the Central Government in the appointment of Delhi Police Commissioner, the reply read.
"Any straightjacket or paediatric approach would not be in the national interest," the Centre said.
The government felt that an officer belonging to a large state cadre—Asthana belongs to the Gujarat Cadre—who had the exposure of complexities of governance and who had the knowledge of nuances of broad canvas policing should be given charge of Commissioner of Police Delhi.
The Home ministry added that there was no officer of appropriate seniority with balanced experience in the AGMUT cadre.
Prashant Bhushan is a meddler and busybody: Centre to HC
The government told the high court that the petition challenging Asthana's appointment is "completely misconceived and devoid of any merits". The petition is an abuse of the process of law and manifestly an outcome of some personal vendetta against the incumbent police commissioner entertained by the petitioner (Sadre Alam) as well as the intervener (Bhushan).
The government said the bias against Asthana is clear because neither Alam nor Bhushan challenged appointments of eight IPS officers who were appointed as Delhi Police Commissioner following the same procedure laid down in the Supreme Court's Prakash Singh judgement which laid guidelines to appoint DGPs.
Such a selective exhibition of "public interest" speaks volumes about the motive behind filing this petition, the Centre said.
The centre added that Alam failed to appreciate, for the reasons best known to him, that the top court's 2006 Prakash Singh judgment is only applicable for the appointment to the post of "DGP of a State/chief of the police administration of the entire State".
The said judgment does not apply to appointments of Police Commissioners/Police Heads of Union Territories falling under the AGMUT cadre.