New Delhi, July 28: Hitting out at the Centre over Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana's appointment as the Delhi Police Commissioner, the Congress on Wednesday said it was in "direct contravention" of a Supreme Court judgment and asked whether any "quid pro quo" was involved.
Rakesh Asthana, a senior IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, was appointed the Commissioner of Delhi Police on Tuesday. He took charge on Wednesday.
Attacking the government over the appointment, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said that with four days left for Asthana's superannuation, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued the notification naming him as the Police Commissioner of New Delhi, effectively granting him a one year extension from the date of his superannuation "as a special case in public interest".
"Not just is it an issue of inter-cadre appointment; the issue expands to another instance of blatant disregard towards the Supreme Court of India and the laws of the land," Khera alleged.
While clearing his appointment as the CP Delhi, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the inter-cadre deputation from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre.
Khera said that in the landmark matter of Prakash Singh and others versus Union of India and others, the Supreme Court stated that the recommendation for appointment to the post of Director General of Police by the Union Public Service Commission and preparation of panel should be purely on the basis of merit from officers who have a minimum residual tenure of six months i.e. officers who have at least six months of service prior to the retirement.
"With just four days left before the retirement of Rakesh Asthana, this notification by the Modi government issued under the seal of approval by (Home Minister) Amit Shah is downright illegal and in direct contravention of the judgment of the Honourable Supreme Court of India," Khera said.
Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, while expressing reservations to the candidature of Y.C. Modi and Rakesh Asthana (for the post of CBI chief), had reminded the prime minister of the Prakash Singh judgment of 2019, he said.
"As both the officers had less than six months for retirement, based on the observations of the CJI, their names were dropped despite being the two senior most IPS Officers in fray to become the Director, CBI," Khera said.
"Despite being apprised of this, yet again, this government deemed it fit to arbitrarily proceed with the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner," he said, adding that this is not the first instance of this government indulging in "favouritism over merit".
Khera underlined that Asthana is four days away from retirement, is not an AGMUT cadre officer and his experiences include working with the CBI.
What is the government suggesting, that it wants to convert Delhi into a "CBI state", he asked.
"What credentials of managing the metro policing does Rakesh Asthana possess? What 'public Interest' is being fulfilled by appointing someone with no experience of metro policing?" he said.
Khera asked what has forced the government to appoint Asthana as the Commissioner of Police, Delhi four days before his retirement.
"What do they fear? What does Mr. Asthana have against Modi and Shah? His appointment coming after his name was revealed among the list of those snooped upon using NSO's Pegasus begs us to ask the question: Is there some quid pro quo?" the Congress spokesperson said.
A 1984-batch IPS officer, Asthana had earlier served as the special director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). During his stint in the CBI, he was engaged in an unsavoury spat with the then CBI Director Alok Verma with both of them levelling allegations of corruption against each other.
Senior IPS officer Balaji Srivastav was given the additional charge of CP Delhi after the retirement of S.N. Shrivastava at the end of June.