The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on two petitions seeking a probe into the ‘mysterious death’ of Ashutosh Maharaj, spiritual head of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan at Nurmahal (Jalandhar), and also the release of his mortal remains for performing last rites.
On January 29, sansthan doctors had declared Ashutosh alias Mahesh Kumar Jha clinically dead, after which the sansthan management had kept the body inside a deep freezer, stating that the spiritual head had gone into ‘samadhi’ (deep meditation).
The court headed by justice MMS Bedi reserved the judgment after arguments of all parties concerned in the case got over on Wednesday.
One of the petitioners, Dalip Kumar Jha, had moved the high court in April, seeking the release of mortal remains of ‘his father’ to him for performing last rites and also a probe to ascertain the cause of his ‘mysterious death’. Another petitioner, Puran Singh, claiming himself to be the spiritual head’s former driver, had also approached the high court, seeking a CBI probe into the spiritual head’s suspicious death.
Appearing for the state government, additional advocate general Rita Kohli argued, “We have conducted a detailed inquiry on the court directions and nothing unusual was found.” She said, “Petitioner (Puran Singh) has not been able to explain during the inquiry as to what is the basis of his doubt in the case,” adding that it had come to light during the probe that Puran Singh was habitual of filing frivolous petitions and affidavits.
On being questioned by the court, Kohli clarified, “We are not taking the stand of the sansthan but we have to maintain balance and law and order. Keeping the body in the freezer is a way to preserve it and this is not disrespect.”
Countering the state government’s stand and the manner in which the inquiry had been conducted, advocate RS Bains, appearing for Puran Singh, argued, “What is wrong in conducting a medical examination of the body? If it is natural death, then it is fine. But why not clear doubt? Poison can never be detected in inquest proceedings but in post-mortem only… They (sansthan people) are creating suspicion themselves by not even allowing anyone to go near to the body kept in freezer.”
Representing the sansthan, senior advocate Chetan Mittal clarified that suspicion about the spiritual head’s mysterious death so as to grab sansthan’s property could not be raised. “There is no property in Ashutosh Maharaj’s name. Everything is in the sansthan’s name and accounted for,” submitted Mittal, adding that Puran Singh had exhausted all channels even up to the Supreme Court before filing this petition.
Another senior advocate appearing for the sansthan, RS Rai, raised questions on the credentials of petitioner Dalip Kumar Jha. “Jha says that his father had left home in 1970 and he was born in 1972. How is it possible?” The court also raised doubts over the authenticity of a letter submitted by Jha’s counsel to the court claiming that it was written by the spiritual head to his son Jha in 1999 from Punjab.