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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Punjab for status quo in Ashutosh case

HT Correspondent, Hindustantimes.com  Chandigarh, August 22, 2014
First Published: 10:58 IST(22/8/2014) | Last Updated: 11:01 IST(22/8/2014)

The Punjab government has taken the stand to maintain status quo about keeping the body of Ashutosh Maharaj, spiritual head of Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) of Nurmahal (Jalandhar), inside the deep freezer, as per the wishes of his followers.

The state government informed the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday that the authorities did not want to “play with the sentiments” of the Nurmahal sansthan followers so as to avoid a law and order problem. The court headed by justice MMS Bedi was hearing a petition filed by Puran Singh, former driver of the DJJS head, seeking a CBI probe into the spiritual head’s mysterious death.

On January 29, sansthan doctors had declared Ashutosh Maharaj clinically dead, after which the DJJS management had kept the body inside a deep freezer, stating that the spiritual head had gone into ‘samadhi’ (deep state of meditation).

After hearing additional advocate general Rita Kohli’s submissions, justice Bedi said, “Rightly or wrongly, this person (petitioner) alleges death in unnatural circumstances. But what has been done with the body is disrespect to a body. Why this body is lying in the freezer? What is the duty of the state?”

When Kohli apprised the court about the shady past of the petitioner, with his involvement in various such cases, “conducting of press conferences” on the issue and “collection of money” for the same, justice Bedi added, “Had it been a civil case, it would have been dismissed. But it is a cognisable offence… As a criminal court I have to see whether the person has died a natural or unnatural death.”

On being asked by the court, Kohli replied, “No FIR has been registered in the case and proceedings under Section 174 (of the Criminal Procedure Code) have not taken place.”

Appearing for the petitioner, advocate RS Bains argued, “The state government has acknowledged the death. He (spiritual head) has been dead for the past seven months and inside the freezer. Every dera has interference in politics. They (state) are afraid of their influence.”

But justice Bedi told the petitioner’s counsel, “In this case there is no FIR and the investigation starts after the FIR. First you have to seek the registration of an FIR.” But Bains submitted that in every case of suspicion, the body had to be examined and thus Section 174 of the CrPC has to be followed.

The case has now been posted for continuing arguments on Friday.

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