The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday stayed the single-judge order on the last rites of Ashutosh, the ‘clinically dead’ head of Nurmahal-based Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS).
The matter came up for hearing before the division bench of acting chief justice SJ Vazifdar, who took over on Monday itself. The bench stayed the single-judge order of December 1, wherein the bench of justice MMS Bedi had constituted a committee and asked it to carry out Ashutosh’s last rites within 15 days.
The division bench order came on one petition each of the Punjab government, Dalip Kumar Jha -- who claims to be Ashutosh’s son -- and the DJJS. The next date of hearing in the case has been fixed for February 9, 2015. The HC division bench, in its interim order, said the December 1 judgment had been stayed till further orders. Thus, the government will not execute the December 1 order on the last rites, while Ashutosh’s body, which has been in a freezer since January 29 this year, would stay there for at least another more months.
The petitions of Jha and the DJJS were heard on Friday as well, but as the state government had also filed the appeal against the order, the hearing was adjourned for Monday.
During the hearing on Monday, government counsel Reeta Kohli argued that none of the parties had sought a declaration that the state be directed to cremate Ashutosh’s body. And the prayer was only to the extent of handing over the body or for getting the post-mortem performed.
The counsel for DJJS, Satya Pal Jain, also argued that the matter should have been ended where the HC ruled that the petitioner did not have any locus standi.
Contentions of Jha, DJJS
Jha has challenged the December 1 order, terming it “erroneous”, and sought the mortal remains of the Nurmahal (Jalandhar) dera head.
The DJJS, in its appeal, has argued that courts were not competent to distinguish between a ‘naturally dead body’ and a body in ‘samadhi’ (deep meditation). They have also argued that it was not pleaded before the court whether Ashutosh was dead or not and the court had gone beyond the scope of the pleadings. Both parties have also contended that the court did not give them sufficient time to file an appeal against the December 1 order.
On December 1, the high court had constituted a committee led by the Jalandhar district magistrate and directed it to cremate Ashutosh within 15 days. It had also directed the government to oversee the compliance of the order.
Punjab’s main arguments
Directing the state through a committee to dispose of the godman’s mortal remains is going beyond the scope of the writ jurisdiction itself.
Instead of directing the state authorities to perform the task of cremation, the same should have been assigned to followers of the DJJS, which Ashutosh was heading. The court was not dealing with an unclaimed body and lakhs of followers were laying claims to the body.
The bench has failed to clarify the mode in which the body is to be cremated or buried. To take a decision by the committee on sensitive issue like this may lead to an unpleasant situation, more so because DJJS is an organisation having thousands of followers.
The court has failed to specifically state which particular religious denomination the said person should be belonging to who needs to be associated at the time of cremation/burial. Also how to identify his relatives?
There was no prayer for directing the state to perform last rites.
No disrespect in any manner is being shown to the body. The body is not being exhibited at all. On the contrary, it is being revered and respected.