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All eyes on Rakesh Asthana, the new Delhi Police Commissioner

Law and order in Delhi is top priority as Independence Day nears, farmers protests continue, neighbouring states prepare for Assembly elections 2022

Sabrangindia 28 Jul 2021

Delhi Police CommissionerImage Courtesy:yespunjab.com

The Delhi Police led by its Commissioner, comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Last week, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal also empowered the Delhi police commissioner under National Security Act (NSA). This empowers the commissioner to order preventive detention of any individual if he feels that the person poses a threat to national security, and law and order.

This order will be in place till October 18, 2021. The order is now active as Independence Day draws close, the Parliament’s Monsoon session at a time farmers protesting against the Centre's three agriculture laws have been holding 'Kisan Sansad' at central Delhi's Jantar Mantar. 

On Wednesday, July 27, Rakesh Asthana took charge as the new Delhi Police Commissioner. His appointment was announced the evening before, and according to multiple news reports, he has been handpicked for the job. The 1984-batch IPS officer, was due to retire on July 31, however, his service tenure has now been extended for one more year, or till further orders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), had also approved the “inter-cadre deputation from Gujarat to AGMUT cadre”. 

Asthana was serving as the Director General of the Border Security Force (BSF), when he was appointed to lead the Delhi Police. He had also served as the Special Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. 

What is different about this appointment?

It is rare that an IPS officer from a state cadre, in this case Gujarat, is specially moved to the Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre to facilitate his appointment as police chief of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Delhi is a Union Territory that also has an elected government led by a Chief Minister. However, on April 27 2021, Government of India had notified the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021. This Act gives more authority to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi over the elected government in the city. Simply put, Delhi’s LG Anil Baijal is THE government in the Union territory now.

According to the legislation, the opinion of the LG "shall be obtained" before taking any executive action on decisions of the Council of Ministers of the Delhi government. And with the Delhi LG granting powers to the commissioner of Delhi Police under the NSA, it is clear that the ‘power centres’ as it were has been re-established. Asthana’s appointment as CP has been done after a "relaxation of Rule 16 (1) of the All India Services (death-cum-retirement benefits) Rules, 1958 as a special case in public interest.”  According to news reports, B G Krishnan, Deputy Secretary,  Home Ministry issued a notification that stated, “The approval of the appointment committee of the Cabinet has been conveyed, dated July 27, 2021, for the Inter Cadre deputation of Rakesh Asthana, from Gujarat cadre to AGMUT Cadre and extending his service initially for a period of one year beyond the date of his superannuation on July 31,2021, or until further orders, whichever is earlier, in relaxation of Rule 16 (1) of the All India Services (death-cum-retirement benefits) rules, 1958 as a special case in public interest. In pursuance of the said approval, Asthana is hereby appointed as Commissioner of Police, Delhi, with effect from the date of taking over charge up to July 31, 2022 or until further orders, whichever is earlier. This issues with the approval of the competent authority.” 

What is happening in Delhi in the next few months?

The Monsoon Session of the Parliament is underway, a few kilometers away around 200 farmers associated with the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) are conducting a ‘Kisan Sansad’, or farmers Parliament. This is for the first time since they began their protest on Delhi’s borders in November 2020 that they have been allowed to gather in the city centre, so close to Parliament. The Kisan Sansad has been peaceful, and is being conducted under a heavy security cover, at Jantar Mantar.

However, recently Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait has said that the farmers may hold a tractor rally on Independence Day. According to news reports, Tikait said this in Jind, Haryana where the farmers have reportedly expressed their inets of holding such an event. 

The announcement may have upped the ante in Delhi too, where security is at its most strict around national events such as Independence Day. On January 26, 2021, unprecedented chaos was witnessed in the city, and confrontation between Delhi Police, and volatile groups ensued. In May Delhi Police crime branch named 16 suspects in the charge sheet filed on the Republic Day violence allegedly by a section of anti farm law protesters. According to media reports the Delhi Police has charged that the violence was  “a deep-rooted, well-orchestrated conspiracy.” 

As the new commissioner all eyes will now be on Rakesh Asthana’s handling of the farmers' protest in the months to come. Law and order in Delhi may also be seen as also crucial and sensitive as the states around the national capital are preparing for Assembly elections in 2022.  

Why is his name familiar in Delhi? 

In October 2018, there was a ‘CBI Vs CBI’ confrontation between Asthana the special director and Alok Verma the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Allegations ranging from ‘misusing CBI resources for serving the agenda of powerful political masters to corruption and bribery, to orchestrating a cover-up of investigations’ flew thick. 

In 2019, the Delhi High Court had refused to quash the FIR in the bribery case against Rakesh Asthana, CBI Special Director and Devender Kumar, CBI DySP. The court had directed the CBI to complete the investigation within 10 weeks and file a charge sheet. Verma had registered an FIR against Asthana on October 15, 2018, reported Indian Express. The allegation according to the news report was that “a suspect in the Moin Qureshi case had been forced to pay Rs 2.95 crore to Asthana through two middlemen to water down the case against him”. Asthana was eventually cleared of all charges and the CBI had submitted in the High Court that there was no evidence to support the charges against him. 

Most recently, his name has featured in the list of names revealed by the Pegasus Project investigations. The Wire had reported that, hours after their termination from CBO, “both Asthana’s and Verma’s phone numbers had come under the scanner of the client of the Israeli NSO Group, the creator of the Pegasus spyware”. According to the report another phone number, belonging to senior CBI official A.K. Sharma, was also on the list.

Other career milestones? 

Asthana was  appointed to the post of Director General Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in 2019. He led the NCB when it probed the highly publicised drugs trafficking case that was investigating following  actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. According to a report in Hindustan Times Asthana had himself  visited Mumbai to “review investigations”. The NCB had made many arrests in the case including actor Rhea Chakraborty.

Asthana was also the CBI officer who investigated the fodder scam, in which former Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav was convicted. He was also the head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Godhra train arson.  Although a junior IG, Asthana was appointed to the post of IGP of the important Vadodara Range in April 2003. 

After Asthana's elevation as interim director Central Bureau of Investigation by the PMO (prime minister’s office), on December 6, 2016, a Public-Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court on seeking quashing of the same.  

Related:

Delhi Government now means Lieutenant Governor
CBI vs CBI: No relief for Rakesh Asthana as Delhi HC refuses to quash FIR in bribery case
Alok Verma Resigns saying "Natural Justice was Scuttled"
Actor Rhea Chakraborty arrested by NCB, but the TV media trail continues to bay for 

All eyes on Rakesh Asthana, the new Delhi Police Commissioner

Law and order in Delhi is top priority as Independence Day nears, farmers protests continue, neighbouring states prepare for Assembly elections 2022

Delhi Police CommissionerImage Courtesy:yespunjab.com

The Delhi Police led by its Commissioner, comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Last week, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal also empowered the Delhi police commissioner under National Security Act (NSA). This empowers the commissioner to order preventive detention of any individual if he feels that the person poses a threat to national security, and law and order.

This order will be in place till October 18, 2021. The order is now active as Independence Day draws close, the Parliament’s Monsoon session at a time farmers protesting against the Centre's three agriculture laws have been holding 'Kisan Sansad' at central Delhi's Jantar Mantar. 

On Wednesday, July 27, Rakesh Asthana took charge as the new Delhi Police Commissioner. His appointment was announced the evening before, and according to multiple news reports, he has been handpicked for the job. The 1984-batch IPS officer, was due to retire on July 31, however, his service tenure has now been extended for one more year, or till further orders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), had also approved the “inter-cadre deputation from Gujarat to AGMUT cadre”. 

Asthana was serving as the Director General of the Border Security Force (BSF), when he was appointed to lead the Delhi Police. He had also served as the Special Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. 

What is different about this appointment?

It is rare that an IPS officer from a state cadre, in this case Gujarat, is specially moved to the Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre to facilitate his appointment as police chief of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Delhi is a Union Territory that also has an elected government led by a Chief Minister. However, on April 27 2021, Government of India had notified the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021. This Act gives more authority to the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Delhi over the elected government in the city. Simply put, Delhi’s LG Anil Baijal is THE government in the Union territory now.

According to the legislation, the opinion of the LG "shall be obtained" before taking any executive action on decisions of the Council of Ministers of the Delhi government. And with the Delhi LG granting powers to the commissioner of Delhi Police under the NSA, it is clear that the ‘power centres’ as it were has been re-established. Asthana’s appointment as CP has been done after a "relaxation of Rule 16 (1) of the All India Services (death-cum-retirement benefits) Rules, 1958 as a special case in public interest.”  According to news reports, B G Krishnan, Deputy Secretary,  Home Ministry issued a notification that stated, “The approval of the appointment committee of the Cabinet has been conveyed, dated July 27, 2021, for the Inter Cadre deputation of Rakesh Asthana, from Gujarat cadre to AGMUT Cadre and extending his service initially for a period of one year beyond the date of his superannuation on July 31,2021, or until further orders, whichever is earlier, in relaxation of Rule 16 (1) of the All India Services (death-cum-retirement benefits) rules, 1958 as a special case in public interest. In pursuance of the said approval, Asthana is hereby appointed as Commissioner of Police, Delhi, with effect from the date of taking over charge up to July 31, 2022 or until further orders, whichever is earlier. This issues with the approval of the competent authority.” 

What is happening in Delhi in the next few months?

The Monsoon Session of the Parliament is underway, a few kilometers away around 200 farmers associated with the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) are conducting a ‘Kisan Sansad’, or farmers Parliament. This is for the first time since they began their protest on Delhi’s borders in November 2020 that they have been allowed to gather in the city centre, so close to Parliament. The Kisan Sansad has been peaceful, and is being conducted under a heavy security cover, at Jantar Mantar.

However, recently Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait has said that the farmers may hold a tractor rally on Independence Day. According to news reports, Tikait said this in Jind, Haryana where the farmers have reportedly expressed their inets of holding such an event. 

The announcement may have upped the ante in Delhi too, where security is at its most strict around national events such as Independence Day. On January 26, 2021, unprecedented chaos was witnessed in the city, and confrontation between Delhi Police, and volatile groups ensued. In May Delhi Police crime branch named 16 suspects in the charge sheet filed on the Republic Day violence allegedly by a section of anti farm law protesters. According to media reports the Delhi Police has charged that the violence was  “a deep-rooted, well-orchestrated conspiracy.” 

As the new commissioner all eyes will now be on Rakesh Asthana’s handling of the farmers' protest in the months to come. Law and order in Delhi may also be seen as also crucial and sensitive as the states around the national capital are preparing for Assembly elections in 2022.  

Why is his name familiar in Delhi? 

In October 2018, there was a ‘CBI Vs CBI’ confrontation between Asthana the special director and Alok Verma the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Allegations ranging from ‘misusing CBI resources for serving the agenda of powerful political masters to corruption and bribery, to orchestrating a cover-up of investigations’ flew thick. 

In 2019, the Delhi High Court had refused to quash the FIR in the bribery case against Rakesh Asthana, CBI Special Director and Devender Kumar, CBI DySP. The court had directed the CBI to complete the investigation within 10 weeks and file a charge sheet. Verma had registered an FIR against Asthana on October 15, 2018, reported Indian Express. The allegation according to the news report was that “a suspect in the Moin Qureshi case had been forced to pay Rs 2.95 crore to Asthana through two middlemen to water down the case against him”. Asthana was eventually cleared of all charges and the CBI had submitted in the High Court that there was no evidence to support the charges against him. 

Most recently, his name has featured in the list of names revealed by the Pegasus Project investigations. The Wire had reported that, hours after their termination from CBO, “both Asthana’s and Verma’s phone numbers had come under the scanner of the client of the Israeli NSO Group, the creator of the Pegasus spyware”. According to the report another phone number, belonging to senior CBI official A.K. Sharma, was also on the list.

Other career milestones? 

Asthana was  appointed to the post of Director General Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in 2019. He led the NCB when it probed the highly publicised drugs trafficking case that was investigating following  actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. According to a report in Hindustan Times Asthana had himself  visited Mumbai to “review investigations”. The NCB had made many arrests in the case including actor Rhea Chakraborty.

Asthana was also the CBI officer who investigated the fodder scam, in which former Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav was convicted. He was also the head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Godhra train arson.  Although a junior IG, Asthana was appointed to the post of IGP of the important Vadodara Range in April 2003. 

After Asthana's elevation as interim director Central Bureau of Investigation by the PMO (prime minister’s office), on December 6, 2016, a Public-Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court on seeking quashing of the same.  

Related:

Delhi Government now means Lieutenant Governor
CBI vs CBI: No relief for Rakesh Asthana as Delhi HC refuses to quash FIR in bribery case
Alok Verma Resigns saying "Natural Justice was Scuttled"
Actor Rhea Chakraborty arrested by NCB, but the TV media trail continues to bay for 

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Analysis

Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
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