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Delhi High Court defers plea challenging appointment of Rakesh Asthana as Delhi Police Commissioner to September 16

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday deferred hearing till September 16, on a petition challenging the appointment of Gujarat-cadre IPS Officer Rakesh Asthana as the Police Commissioner of Delhi.

The development came after the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was informed that the notice issued to Asthana on September 1, could not be served for the want of process fee.

The Bench enquired Advocate B.S Bagga, representing the petitioner, as to why the process fee has not been paid yet, even though the apex court has granted a time-bound schedule to decide the petition. Advocate Bagga assured the Bench that the process fee would be paid by the end of the day. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, also sought time to file response on the petition. In light of the above, the Bench issued fresh notice upon Asthana and granted time to the Centre to file reply.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the intervenor NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), reiterated that the petition filed in the Delhi High Court by one Sadre Alam is a reproduction of the plea filed by the NGO before the apex court.

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He alleged that the petition before the High Court was ‘malafide’ and contended that the Court must consider whether such a petition, which violates all the procedures of filing a PIL, could be heard at all. The Solicitor General supported the contentions made by Bhushan with regard to petition by Alam being copied from the plea filed by the NGO, and submitted that such petitions should not have been filed. But if Bhushan makes his petitions public before they are even heard, then he cannot complain, added Mehta.

The Bench, on the last date of hearing, allowed the intervention application preferred by Bhushan, who has filed a petition on the same issue before the apex court, and sought response from the Centre and Asthana on the issue.

Filed by one Sadre Alam, a practicing Advocate, the plea prayed for quashing of the order dated July 27, appointing Asthana as the Commissioner of Police, Delhi. The plea also prayed for quashing of the order approving inter-cadre deputation and extension of service period beyond the date of superannuation of Asthana. 

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The petition further sought direction to the Centre to make fresh appointment to the post of the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, strictly in accordance with the directions issued by the apex court in Prakash Singh case. It alleged that the order issued by the Government, appointing Asthana as the Police Commissioner of Delhi, was completely illegal and smack of malafide.

On July 27, 2021, an order was passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which allowed for inter-cadre deputation of Asthana from Gujarat cadre to Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre, as also extended his service tenure by a period of one year beyond the date of his superannuation, which was July 31, 2021. By the same order, he was also appointed as the Police Commissioner of Delhi.

The apex court, on August 25, had requested the Delhi High Court to decide the petition filed before it within two weeks, so as to enable the Court to have the benefit of the judgment of the High Court, while considering a plea challenging the appointment of Asthana filed by CPIL.

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