The Delhi Legislative Assembly on Thursday passed a resolution against Rakesh Asthana’s appointment as Delhi police commissioner on the ground that it violated a Supreme Court judgment.
The resolution, backed by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and opposed by the BJP, expressed “strong disapproval” over the appointment that goes against a 2019 Supreme Court judgment in Prakash Singh vs Union of India that prohibited the appointment of an officer with less than six months of service left as a director-general of police (DGP).
The Delhi police commissioner’s rank is equivalent to that of a DGP. Delhi police report to the Centre.
Asthana, who was the DG of the Border Security Force before his current appointment, would have retired on July 31 but was given a year’s extension as the commissioner.
The resolution says: “…It is beyond any reasonable understanding as to why a controversial officer who was removed by this central government from the post of special director CBI in October 2018 and was not considered fit for the post of CBI director only very recently, is being imposed on Delhi police.”
The resolution added: “Given the past track record of this officer, there is reasonable apprehension that the central government will use him for foisting false cases on political rivals to create a reign of terror in the national capital.
“Such a controversial individual should NOT be heading the police force in the country’s national capital.”
The resolution directs the Delhi government to ask the ministry of home affairs to withdraw the notification and initiate the appointment process afresh.
As a Union Territory, the Delhi Assembly has no power over the police but can seek replies and make recommendations to the Centre and the lieutenant governor, which are not binding.
Last year, the CBI had given a clean chit to Asthana, a former CBI special director, in connection with a bribery scandal in 2018. The case had triggered an unprecedented public feud between Asthana and then CBI director Alok Verma. The Centre benched both after an unusual midnight raid on Asthana.
Asthana was seen as a favourite for appointment as CBI director earlier this year, but got ruled out when Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana cited a Supreme Court guideline that no officer with less than six months of service left could be appointed.
AAP MLA B.S. Joon, during the discussion in the Assembly, said: “If the Centre does not consider the post of DGP as equivalent to Delhi police commissioner, then it is a demotion for Asthana as he has already served as DG, BSF. And if the post of police commissioner is equal to that of a DGP, then it is a clear violation of the SC order.”
Leader of the Opposition Ramvir Singh Bidhuri of the BJP said Asthana had investigated the killing of 59 kar sevaks in Godhra in 2002 and sent the accused to jail. “He punished those who killed Ram bhakts and if someone is pained by that then what can one say,” Bidhuri added.
Asthana had probed the Godhra train carnage as the deputy inspector-general of police in Gujarat.
A trial court acquitted 63 of the 94 accused in 2011, including Maulana Umarji, who was described as the “mastermind” in the chargesheet.