Rakesh Asthana Update: Case May Soon Become InfructuousRakesh Asthana’s Appointment as Delhi Police Commissioner
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) challenged the appointment of Mr. Asthana as Delhi Police Commissioner on August 6th 2021. They argue that the appointment contradicts the SC’s decisions in Prakash Singh v Union of India 2006 and 2019.
In the 2006 judgment, the Court held that State Police Chiefs must be selected by the State Government after the Union Public Service Commission creates a panel of the three senior-most officers from the department. Once selected from the panel, the officer must have a minimum tenure of two years. In the 2019 judgment, the Court held that the appointee must have a residual tenure of at-least six months before retirement. This was meant to curb any acts of ‘favouritism’ in appointments.
On July 27th 2021, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by the Prime Minister, appointed Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Rakesh Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner (DPC). Mr. Asthana turned 60 on July 9th 2021 and was set to retire four days later, on July 31st 2021. However, the ACC relaxed Rule 16(1) of the All India Service (Death cum Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958 (AIS Rules), which requires service members to retire when they turn 60, to extend his tenure by one year as a special case in ‘public interest’.
In the same order, the ACC first approved the inter cadre deputation of Mr. Asthana from the Gujarat cadre of the IPS to the ‘Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram other Union Territories’ cadre (AGMUT cadre). The DPC is almost always appointed from the AGMUT cadre.
Mr. Asthana was set to retire in July 2021 after turning 60. However, a mere four days before his retirement, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by the Prime Minister, relaxed the retirement age rules—extending his tenure by one year. The case challenging this decision was filed in August 2021.
Since then, the matter has been adjourned over 10 times. The delays are significant—Asthana has already completed a majority of his extended tenure. He is set to retire from the post of Delhi Police Commissioner 82 days from now, on 31st July 2022.
The case has been listed again on 18th May 2022. The Court will be on its summer vacation between 23rd May and 9th July 2022. When the Court reopens, Mr. Asthana will be on the last month of his tenure. If the SC does not hear the matter in time, it may soon become infructuous.