Not So holy | Special Investigation Team on black money to probe the financial dealings of self-styled gurus n To start with Sarathi Baba

Prabhati Nayak Mishra

New Delhi: The unholy nexus of money, crime and religion allegedly built by the likes of Asaram Bapu, Sarathi Baba and Radhe Maa could soon unravel, with the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the financial transactions of these organisations to unearth black money believed to be stashed away in domestic and foreign bank accounts.

The issue will be on top of the agenda at a meeting convened by Justice Arijit Pasayat, vice-chairman of the SIT, in Bhubaneswar on Thursday, a highly placed official told dna.

Officials from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate and SIT will be present at the meeting, it is learnt.

The first on the list is likely to be the Sarathi Baba Trust in Odisha. It is run by 47-year-old Sarathi Baba, also known as Santosh Raula, who was arrested by the state crime branch earlier this month.

According to the police, Sarathi Baba has about 30 bank accounts and properties worth Rs 10 crore, including 11 plots in Kendrapara district.

“SIT will prepare a list of religious and charitable organisations and examine their sources of money generation, expenditure and other financial transactions. It has decided to start with the Sarathi Baba Trust in Odisha and subsequently extend it to other such religious bodies,” the source said.

The SIT, in its latest report, has already recommended a tough law to bring religious bodies owned by self-proclaimed godmen and godwomen under the tax net.

This issue has also been highlighted in a letter by Shri Kalki Dham from Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Acharya Pramod Krishnam from Shri Kalki Dham has given details about the “dubious” nature of controversial religious organisations like those headed by Asaram Bapu, Nirmal Baba, Sant Rampal, Maharshi Kumar Swamy, Radhe Maa, Swamy Nityanand and Datti Maharaj.

Some of these ‘gurus’ are already in jail for various crimes, including murder and sexual assault.

The letter, which the government may forward to the SIT, alleges that the godmen who own these organisations not only play with the religious feelings of people but also lead lavish lives with the money they earn from violating the law of the land.

Asking the government for appropriate action in accordance with law, the temple trust said some of these self-styled godmen had even become ‘mahamandaleswars’, or high priests, after spending crores of rupees which are unaccounted for. It cited the case of Noida-based beer bar owner Sachin Dutta from Allahabad, who went on to become Mahamandaleswar Sachidanand Baba.

The SIT was set up by the apex court last year to bring back black money stashed away by Indians in various banks abroad.