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Godman may lose his ashram land

Last updated: 23 April, 2010
Chandan Nandy, Bangalore, April 23, DH News Service: 22:08 IST

The Ramanagara district administration has initiated proceedings to identify the land-related violations that arrested self-proclaimed godman Nithyananda committed after procuring the 22-acre property over which he built the Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam ashram in Bidadi near here.

The action began a couple of weeks ago after a report by the Bidadi tahsildar addressed to Ramanagara Deputy Commissioner G L Chandrashekharaiah and the Assistant Commissioner identified two clear violations of specific provisions of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961 and the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964.

According to the report, Nithyananda, who is the sole owner of the 22-acre land in Bidadi, violated Sections 79A and B of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961 which states that "no person other than a person cultivating land personally shall be entitled to hold land."
The land over which his ashram has been built is solely owned by Nithyananda who is not an agriculturist. Further, he has also violated Section 95 of the 1964 Act. Section 95 states that a person who is not a farmer cannot hold agricultural land in his/her name.

Tahsildar’s report

The Ramanagara Deputy Commissioner will soon begin action by way of hearings in which Nithyananda's lawyers will have to prove that there was no violation of the laws. Failure to do so could invite punishment in the form forfeiture of the land, summary removal, eviction and payment of fine.

The tahsildar's report states that Nithyananda has also violated Section 95 because he constructed buildings for purposes other than agriculture.

The buildings are in the form of apartment blocks which were advertised to be sold for Rs 6-8 lakhs to devotees.

The godman's plan included building a health club, an ayurvedic spa, a department store and pharmacy, a recreation centre, a library, an open-air amphitheatre, laundro-mats, landscape garden, a swimming pool and a creek and lake 'flowing through the contours of the ashram'.

He had not taken permission from the Ramanagara Deputy Commissioner to build these facilities.

What makes the violations serious is that the land over which the ashram is built is solely in the name of Nithyananda and not registered under Dhyana Peeta Charitable Trust. The land donors have slapped a legal notice on Nithyananda, demanding its return.

‘Move vacation Bench’

The High Court, hearing the Nithyananda episode, on Friday permitted the petitioner to move the vacation bench in case of urgency.

Hearing the petition filed by Nithyananda, Justice Arali Nagraj adjourned the matter to May 28, 2010.

However, the court granted the liberty to the petitioner to approach the vacation bench in case he feels the urgency.

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