Priest arrested for CNI land forgery

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Hoshangabad(MP), Jan 3 (UNI) A priest of the Protestant church, who was allegedly involved in sale of church land through fraudulent means in different states in collusion with land mafia, has been arrested, police said today.

Fr Santosh Sagar, who was attempting to flee to an unknown destination by the Chhattisgarh Express, was arrested by the Punjab police at the railway station here last night. He was medically examined here today and produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate. Later, he was taken to Punjab, according to Sub-Divisional Officer (Police) J S Parmar.

The priest was wanted by the Punjab police for the alleged sale of CNI church land at Taran Taran through forgery. He was arrested under sections 420, 467,468 and 379 of IPC, according to Chhindwara DSP M M Nagwanshi, who helped the Punjab police in arresting the priest.

He was also allegedly involved in sale of church land at Pachmarhi and Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.

The Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Chhindwara was transferred on the church's complaint, while inquiry against the Tahsildar was in progress. The priest had managed the district administration's permission for sale of church land, but local church officials resisted the administration's move to evict them.

Rev R P Titus of CNI, who had also lodged a complaint against Fr Sagar, said the self-styled Bishop in charge of six states had amassed wealth by selling church land in states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Punjab.

At Hoshangabad also, Fr Sagar had staked claim on the property of St George church and locked up the church. Later, the district administration intervened and allowed rival factions to offer prayers at different timings.

According to Rev Titus, Fr Sagar had staked claim on the property of Church of North India at different places on the basis of documents of British era. He raked up disputes with local church authorities claiming ownership of immovable property, including school buildings.

In the land deal in Punjab, Fr Sagar had given his Nagpur address, where he could not be traced. Later, the Punjab police sought help of Chhindwara police, Mr Nagwanshi said.

Meanwhile, Fr Sagar admitted that he had dispute with the Church of North India on the ownership of church land and the case was pending in court. However, he said :''I am innocent and the church had lodged false complaints against me.'' UNI XC-SP HS RK1615

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