Asaram faces Rs 700-cr land grab charge

Spiritual leader Asaram Bapu has run into fresh trouble with the Serious Fraud Investigating Office (SFIO) recommending his prosecution in a Rs 700-crore land grab case in Madhya Pradesh.

The SFIO in its recent recommendation to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has said that Asaram and his son should be prosecuted under provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Companies Act 1956. A senior ministry official said, "We have received the recommendation from SFIO to prosecute Asaram Bapu, his son Narayan Sai and some others in the case and it is under consideration."

A spokesperson for Asaram in Madhya Pradesh, however, denied the charges of land grabbing.

The case pertains to 200 acres of land in Ratlam. Located on the Delhi-Pune freight corridor, it belongs to Jayant Vitamins Limited (JVL) and was allegedly grabbed in 2000 and is being used by Asaram's followers since then.

Ratlam MLA Paras Saklecha alleged the land was under litigation for several years and was much more than 200 acres that is under the scanner of the SFIO. He alleged that the district administration colluded with JVL, a company that illegally closed down in 1997, to facilitate the encroachment.

According to him, 473 workers were employed in JVL when it closed down and their dues ran into more than Rs 80 crore at that time. In 2000, part of the land was auctioned and the workers were paid Rs 80 lakh. Besides farming, he said, Asaram's supporters were running a huge temple, a gaushala and a medicine unit on the encroached land. He said the disputed land was under the possession of the district administration but it did not prevent encroachment.

He alleged that Asaram was invited for an 11-day satsang on the land years ago and his followers stayed put and gradually expanded their illegal activities.

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