Asthana

To

Shri Rajiv Gauba

Cabinet Secretary

Govt of India

Dear Shri Gauba,

The website of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) emphasises the need for transparency in governance in the following words.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi firmly believes that transparency and accountability are the two cornerstones of any pro-people government. Transparency and accountability not only connect the people closer to the government but also make them equal and integral part of the decision making process…….During his record 4 terms as Chief Minister Narendra Modi demonstrated strong commitment to an open and transparent government. Rules and policies were not framed in AC Chambers but among the people….His strong resolve to transparency backed by the manner in which he put this commitment to practice indicates an era of open, transparent and people- centric government for the people of India

One would therefore expect that such a strong commitment to transparency will characterise every aspect of governance at the Centre, more so in appointments to senior positions in the government.

In my letter dated 28-5-2021 addressed to the Prime Minister (https://countercurrents.org/2021/05/letter-to-the-prime-minister-lack-of-transparency-in-governance/), I had pointed out how appointments to the offices of the Director of CBI, the head of the Enforcement Directorate, the Chairman of CBDT, the head of the Intelligence Bureau and the heads of the other investigating agencies were not based on objective, transparent procedures. With special reference to the appointment of the Director of the CBI, I extract below the relevant portion of my letter for your ready reference.

It is relevant to mention here that one of the candidates short-listed to be on the panel of candidates for selecting Shri R K Shukla’s successor, as reported widely, was Shri Rakesh Asthana against whom there were some allegations made in the past. Those allegations were still being investigated. It was Shri R K Shukla who had given the final clean chit to Shri Asthana, when the former was about to retire in February, 2021. Apparently, the government took some time to take a final decision on Shri Shukla’s finding. Had the government started the process of selection of Shri Shukla’s successor well in advance, so as to be able to appoint his successor well before the date of his retirement, Shri Asthana’s chances of being short-listed for selection as Director would perhaps have been affected.

As a result of the delay in processing the selection of a successor to Shri R K Shukla, an officer of the Gujarat cadre of the IPS was placed “in charge” to run the CBI by way of an interim arrangement, a situation that raised public concerns.

Against this background, I find that the Central government has appointed the very same Shri Rakesh Asthana as the Delhi Police Commissioner, just a few days prior to his superannuation on 31-7-2021 (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/gujarat-cadre-ips-officer-rakesh-asthana-appointed-delhi-police-commissioner/articleshow/84802723.cms). According to the reports appearing in the press, Shri Asthana has been given an initial tenure of only one year, with the possibility of its being extended beyond one year without any time limit. He belongs to the Gujarat cadre of the IPS, not the Union Territory cadre from which one would expect such an appointment being made in the normal course. In other words, the incoming Police Commissioner of Delhi knows well that he is on an indefinite tenure subject to Centre’s pleasure, implying that he enjoys no independence as a statutory authority, as envisaged in the apex court’s judgement in the Prakash Singh case. Does it not cast a shadow on the so-called commitment to transparency in governance, so prominently displayed at the website of the PMO? Does not the procedure adopted in selecting Shri Asthana violate the transparency and objectivity norms set by the apex court?

In my view, the procedure of selection of an officer to head the Delhi police should be such that it inspires public confidence and credibility, especially at a time when serious concerns are being expressed at the way the Delhi police has handled investigations into the Delhi riots that rattled the capital city in February, 2020. There have been serious complaints that several highly respected human rights activists have been inappropriately framed in cases, whereas several prominent public functionaries who appeared conspicuously on visual media inciting the people to commit acts of violence are not being investigated at all. The fact that the new head of the Delhi police has been chosen through a procedure that is not entirely in consonance with the norms stipulated by the apex court may raise questions on the motives underlying the appointment.

While considering the candidates proposed for the selection of the new Director of the CBI a few months ago, the Chief Justice of India who was a member of the committee headed by the Prime Minister is reported to have expressed his view that the committee’s selection of officers should withstand the scrutiny of law and that officers with a few days left in service should not be considered. If that was the norm adopted by the committee selecting the new CBI Director, there is no valid reason as to why the same norm should not apply to appointing the Delhi Police Commissioner.

I urge upon the government to consider these concerns as whatever the government does in such matters should inspire public confidence and credibility.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to Government of India

Visakhapatnam

28-7-2021


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