The Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday observed that there could be cascading effects of allowing Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) to preserve mortal remains of Ashutosh, the sect head, who died three years ago. His body is still in a deep freezer at the dera headquarters in Nurmahal in Jalandhar district, and the followers insist Ashutosh — whom they address as ‘Maharaj’ — will come back to life.
“In Punjab, there is a dera in almost every second village,” observed the high court bench of justices Mahesh Grover and Shekher Dhawan, asking what if tomorrow somebody else announces that after death his mortal remains be preserved. This came during the resumed hearing of petitions against an earlier verdict that had ordered Ashutosh’s last rites.
The court was responding to arguments raised by the DJJS that no law or custom was violated and thus there was no impropriety in preserving the body.
“But there is no case so far of somebody declaring himself to be preserved. Such a thing has not happened in India in the past 500 years. Let’s leave it to the future (as to what are effects of allowing preservation of Ashutosh’s body),” senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi argued for the sect.
Punjab and Haryana high court, however, also observed that the state government did not act in the case as “status quo suits its vote bank politics too”.
When the bench asked what constitutes disrespect to a body — and whether there are any rules as to how a dead body should be treated — there was no clear answer from the counsels. The government has already told the court that there are no norms for disposal of bodies.
Ashutosh was declared clinically dead on January 28, 2014, after which his body was put in a freezer by the sect management that said he was in ‘samadhi’ (deep meditative state). But, on December 1, 2015, a single-judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court asked the state government to perform his last rites within 15 days.
The order was later stayed by a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court.
The sect and a man named Dalip Kumar Jha,who claims to be Ashutosh’s son, had filed the appeals against the single-judge order. The arguments will continue on Tuesday.