Prashant Bhushan, Damania, Mayank Gandhi will leave party if they are found guilty

Faced with allegations against some of its key members of involvement in questionable land purchases, India Against Corruption (IAC) on Friday constituted an independent ombudsman (Internal Lokpal) comprising three retired judges of High Courts — one of them a Chief Justice — to look into the matter.

Announcing the move here, IAC member and activist Arvind Kejriwal said the ombudsman would examine the charges of irregularities in land purchased by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, RTI activist Anjali Damania and activist Mayank Gandhi, and their defence. The ombudsman would be requested to come up with its findings within three months, he said.

“If anyone is found guilty of committing any illegality or immorality then the person will have to quit the [yet to be named] party,” he said, adding that “this was what we had promised when we announced the formation of a political party.”

At the same time, Mr. Kejriwal asked the government to probe anyone and award double the prescribed punishment if found guilty. “Unfortunately, the government is more interested in mud-slinging than setting up an independent probe,” he said.

The three retired judges who will look into the matter are the former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, A.P. Shah, B.H. Marlapalle of the Bombay High Court and Jaspal Singh of the Delhi High Court.

‘Ready for probe’

Mr. Bhushan, Dr. Damania and Mr. Gandhi welcomed the move, saying they were ready to face any probe and they had nothing to hide. A probe would clear all charges against them.

Allegations against Mr. Bhushan are that there are irregularities in his purchase of land in Himachal Pradesh. He has countered the charge, saying that the land was bought with official permission to set up a charitable educational institution.

“The government has been making all kinds of allegations, fabricating things to defame us. We have said that we are willing to face any probe by the government or any independent body. The government has not done anything in this direction, so we will form our own ombudsman,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Gandhi has been accused of allegedly helping a real estate company owned by his uncle to land a contract for re-developing a South Mumbai market. The deal has since been scrapped due to irregularities by the Maharashtra government.

Ms. Damania, accused of acquiring agricultural land at cheap rates from farmers in Maharashtra’s Karjat taluk and selling it for a huge profit for commercial use, said that the purpose behind the decision to form an ombudsman was to make all activities of every IAC member transparent.

“I have all the papers that clearly state that I have taken due permission from every concerned body, from the Gram Panchayat to the Raigad Collector, in every process pertaining to the conversion of my farm land to non-farm land,” she told The Hindu.

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