New Delhi, Oct. 19: Activist Arvind Kejriwal today set up a self-styled “internal lokpal” — a panel of three retired high court judges that will probe graft allegations against three India Against Corruption members including Prashant Bhushan.
Some eminent former judges whom The Telegraph spoke to, however, labelled the move a charade, saying such an internally appointed ombudsman would have no moral or legal sanctity.
The former judges, who didn’t want to be named, added that nothing prevents retired judges from joining such panels but they themselves wouldn’t have done so.
The panel’s three members are former Delhi High Court chief justice A.P. Shah, retired Bombay High Court judge B.H. Marlapalle, and former Delhi High Court judge Jaspal Singh.
Kejriwal said the ombudsman would probe accusations against Bhushan, Mayank Gandhi and Anjali Damania.
Allegations of irregularities have been levelled against Bhushan over the purchase of a 12-acre plot in Himachal Pradesh. Mayank has been accused of links with builders while the charges against Damania relate to land deals in Maharashtra.
“We have from time to time requested the government to set up an independent inquiry and give us double the punishment prescribed if found guilty. Unfortunately, the government has been more interested in mudslinging than in setting up an independent probe,” Kejriwal said.
“Therefore, we have formed an independent ombudsman comprising three retired judges with a reputation for impeccable integrity and independence.”
Kejriwal said the panel would be requested to submit its report within three months. “If any member is found guilty of any illegal or immoral activity, he would be expected to resign from the proposed party (to be floated by Kejriwal’s group).”
Two former Chief Justices of India, J.S. Verma and V.N. Khare, said they didn’t want to comment whether retired judges should join such unofficial inquiries. “It depends on the individual,” Justice Verma said.
A former high court judge said: “This panel has no official or legal sanctity. To my mind, it does not even have any moral value as there will be enough people who will refuse to believe a self-made committee’s findings. Their findings will not be legally binding; no FIR will be registered.”
Another former judge said the three retired judges drafted by Kejriwal’s outfit should rethink their participation in the panel.