In more trouble for Asaram Bapu, Gujarat Government is likely to slap a major penalty on him for encroachment of public land by his ashram in Jehangirpura area of the city following a Supreme Court order.
"Action is being taken at government level as per court orders," Surat District Collector JP Shivhare said.
When asked if penalty had been recommended, Shivhare said, "It was under process."
The issue relates to 34,400 square metres of unused land, out of over 50,000 sq m the state irrigation department had acquired in 1976 on the banks of Tapi River to make a protection wall. Asaram's ashram had allegedly encroached upon a part of this unused by building a temple and a gaushala (cowshed) on it.
Anil Vyas, a farmer, filed a petition before the Gujarat High Court which directed the district collector to take possession of the land.
Asaram Bapu, who wanted some time to challenge the order, was asked to pay Rs 70,000 a month at the district collector's office for the interim period. The Supreme Court upheld the order last year.
Reports today suggested that the penalty could be to the tune of Rs 18 crore but there was no official confirmation.
On being asked if any amount of penalty had been decided upon, the Collector said the state government was in the "process" to do so.
The construction of the flood protection wall was over in 1982. Following this the department started the process of returning the excess land to farmers who first owned it but it was allegedly encroached upon by the ashram.
Seventy-two-year-old Asaram was today sent to jail in Jodhpur in judicial custody for 14 days for allegedly sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in his ashram in the Rajasthan city.