After 10 months of claiming that sect head Ashutosh was in ‘samadhi’ and not dead, the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan eventually failed to establish before the high court that even keeping a dead person under refrigeration for an uncertain period was part of Hindu religion.
The Punjab and Haryana HC — in its judgment on Monday asking the authorities to carry out Ashutosh’s last rites within 15 days — observed that no precedent could be referred to by the sect’s counsel wherein someone having been declared clinically dead by doctors for a period of 10 months was considered to be in samadhi (deep meditative state). The court did not accept an argument based on mythology that certain yogis had got up after 200 years of samadhi.
Noting that there was no dispute regarding that Ashutosh was a Hindu, the court further observed, in its detailed judgment: “Exhibition of his body in a transparent refrigerator appears to be not in consonance with any tradition or ritual of Hindu religion. Exhibition of a dead man for any purpose except for ‘last darshan’ would be an insult to the dignity of the dead person.”
The court also held, citing past judgments, that it was not beyond the jurisdiction of a court to find out whether a particular religious faith of people was to be protected under the guise of religion. This observation was made as the government had submitted that faith and belief could neither be interfered into by the State nor judged through any judicial scrutiny.
‘Not an absolute right’
The high court also observed that religious freedom was not an absolute right and was subject to various restrictions like public order, morality or health. “Any activity, usage or custom which contravenes the restrictions (at given point of time) is not considered a purely religious activity. What constitutes an essential part of the religion is primarily to be ascertained with reference to the doctrines of that religion itself,” it held.