Mumbai, May 14 -- The Supreme Court has ordered the state government to demolish the Balayogi Shree Sadanand Maharaj Ashram inside the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS), 15 years after environmentalists first complained about it being illegal. Balayogi Shree Sadanand Maharaj Ashram was set up in 1977.

The ashram was set up in 1977, when TWLS was still a reserved forest (it gained sanctuary status in 2003). It is now spread across 1.7 acres, and according to an interim application filed in January by an environmental group, has been "in violation of the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 for over 30 years, by continuing to illegally encroach on forest land."

The SC bench of justices A...