The Centre had eight years ago acknowledged encroachment on a large portion of land by Asaram’s men in the central ridge near Shanker Road and even pasted an eviction notice at the ashram. But the eviction has not happened to date despite “a number of actions taken”.
The Delhi forest department wants the land to be vacated and transferred to it for ridge conservation. The department again wrote to the Centre this week with the same request.
In reply to Right to Information applications, the land and development office (L&DO) of the urban development ministry said: “Sant Shri Asha Ramji Bapu Trust (Ashram) is an encroacher of government land measuring 38,808 sqft.”
The L&DO admitted it had on July 6, 2005 pasted the notice ordering the trust to move out in 30 days or face action. The L&DO admitted that it could not ensure eviction despite the fact that there is “no case pending in any court of law”.
In the RTI replies sent to Ramesh Kumar Mumukshu, a resident of Dakshinpuri in Delhi, the department admitted that “no fresh notice was issued to the trust immediately after the expiry of the 30-day deadline”. The trust had responded in a letter dated July 26, 2005.
The replies (HT has copies) said there were no reasons available to explain why a fresh notice was not sent. They stated the government had taken a number of actions since then depending upon the “circumstances and subsequent developments”, but did not give specifics.
The RTI response also admitted that no disciplinary action had been taken against any L&DO staff for non-execution of the eviction order.
HT had on September 8 reported about the “illegal” ashram and highlighted that the forest department was verifying the existence of another of Asaram’s ashram in the Rajokari forests in the southern ridge.
A day before, HT reported that the Central Ridge’s ashram had not paid property tax in the past 10 years.
A petition had sought demolition of the ashram in 1985 but in 1996 the Supreme Court allowed the ashram to run. Forest officials said the relief was subject to adherence to legal procedures. A forest settlement officer rejected the plea to regularise the ashram in 2009.
The ashram should have then approached an appellate authority, which it never did, rendering itself illegal, said a forest department official.