Centre says PILs are ‘an industry’, defends Asthana as Delhi top cop

  • Arguing before a bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh, solicitor general (SG) Tushar Mehta said some citizens had a desire to run the government and they sought to fulfil it by filing such PILs.
Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana.(ANI Photo)
Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana.(ANI Photo)
Published on Sep 28, 2021 04:01 AM IST
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The Union government on Monday told the Delhi high court that filing Public Interest Litigation (PILs) has spawned an industry of petitions for vested interests and become a career in itself, as it justified the appointment of IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as the Delhi Police chief.

Arguing before a bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh, solicitor general (SG) Tushar Mehta said some citizens had a desire to run the government and they sought to fulfil it by filing such PILs.

“[They say] there are good officers. Who are they? Are they the persons who possibly felt aggrieved? PIL is an industry, a career by itself, which was not envisaged,” he said.

“Time and again the Supreme Court has taken the view that public interest litigation is not maintainable in service matters…Some citizens of this country have a desire to run the government, they fulfil their unfulfilled desires by such PILs saying ‘why this appointment is wrong, why this policy is wrong’ -- that is for the elected government to decide,” Mehta said.

The submissions were made while opposing pleas challenging Asthana’s appointment.

Mehta, representing the Centre, said Asthana was appointed after due procedure, as applicable to the national capital, and a PIL could not be permitted to be a “forum for settling scores”.

Pointing at advocate Prashant Bhushan, counsel for the intervener, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, Mehta said the lawyer chose not to challenge the appointment of eight other commissioners of police which aggravated the need for examining motives. “The very fact that the same procedure was followed eight times and never questioned is ground enough to accept my submission that there is something other than public interest,” he said. The SG argued that the task of finding a suitable IPS officer having multifarious experience, paramilitary experience etc. was examined by the competent authority from the options available.

“We may have had some officers in mind. Government examined all of them (in the AGMUT cadre), then came to the decision that it may not be best to entrust the sensitive task to any of them,” Mehta said, adding that it was in public interest that Asthana was appointed.

Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, representing Asthana, said the petitioner was “a proxy for somebody who does not want to come in the front” and holds “personal vendetta”.

“People are always aggrieved if some peer or someone in the same service is selected. But here there is no (such) challenge. They are people who are educated, at the pinnacle of their career,” he said.

Both the Centre and Asthana objected to the intervention plea filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, which has already moved the Supreme Court against the appointment.

“Neither the petitioner nor the intervener is entitled to be heard by the court because of the mala fide conduct,” said Rohatgi.

Bhushan said the Centre’s stand that it found no eligible officers in the Union territory cadre was “astounding” and had a “demoralising effect”.

He said the petition here was a “copy-paste” of the organisation’s plea before the top court.

In the petition, the petitioner Sadre Alam prayed for quashing of the July 27 order issued by the ministry of home affairs appointing Asthana Delhi Police commissioner and also the order granting inter-cadre deputation and extension of service to him.

Defending his appointment, the Centre said that it felt a “compelling need” to “appoint a person who had diverse and vast experience of heading a large police force in a large state having diverse political as well as public order problems/experience of working and supervising Central Investigating Agency as well as paramilitary forces”.

Asthana, in his affidavit, has told the court that there is a sustained social media campaign against him and the legal challenge to his appointment was an abuse of the process of law, arising from vendetta. He said ever since he was appointed special director, CBI, proceedings were being consistently filed against him by certain organisations as part of a “selective campaign”.

On August 25, the Supreme Court asked the high court to decide within two weeks the plea pending before it against the appointment.

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