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Faith in freezer: HC allows DJJS to preserve body of sect head Ashutosh

The clinically dead sect head is lying in a deep freezer since January 28, 2014, at the DJJS headquarters in Nurmahal, Jalandhar.

punjab Updated: Jul 06, 2017 09:23 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Ashutosh Maharaj

The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday allowed Nurmahal-based sect Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (DJJS) to preserve the body of its head Ashutosh.

  • January 28, 2014: Ashutosh declared clinically dead
  • March 14, 2014: Petition in HC alleging foul play in death by a support staff member. Subsequently purported son too approaches court
  • December 1, 2014: HC asks government to carry out cremation of Ashutosh.
  • December 15, 2014: On appeals of Punjab, DJJS and Jha, HC division bench stays operation of a single-judge order
  • December 17, 2016: HC fines DJJS with Rs 2 lakh for causing delay in disposal of matter
  • May 9, 2017: HC reserves petitions for final order
Ashutosh Maharaj ( HT File Photo )

The high court bench of justice Mahesh Grover and justice Shekher Dhawan set aside a December 2014 judgment of a single-judge bench asking the state to carry out the last rites of Ashutosh.

The division bench declined to be dragged into “sacred territory of personal beliefs and faiths” and stated that it would not intervene on disposal of the body unless there is cogent material to show its degeneration or the issue raises a health or a morality concern.

The ‘clinically dead’ sect head is lying in a deep freezer since January 28, 2014, at the DJJS headquarters. The dera, set up in eighties by self-proclaimed godman Ashutosh, claims to have nearly 15 lakh followers. It has not appointed a successor so far as the followers believe that Ashutosh is in a state of trance.

In May 2014, a Bihar resident Dalip Kumar Jha, who claimed to be Ashutosh’s son, approached the high court stating that the body must be handed over to him for the last rites.

In December 2014, a single-judge bench ordered the Punjab government to conduct the last rites as it doubted Jha’s credentials. On an appeal by the Punjab government, DJJS and Jha, a division bench stayed the operation of the single- judge order.

On Wednesday, the division bench observed that it is high time the country comes up with a law on disposal of bodies and hoped that Centre takes note of the controversy. It also asked Jha to file a civil suit for a DNA test if he wishes to and directed Sansthan not to resist the handing over of a DNA sample from the body.

The court also directed that a team of Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, will examine the body from time to time and ensure its preservation in good state. They can charge fee from the dera for the purpose, it added.

The court, however, cautioned the state that if the preservation of the body creates a situation which threatens public health, morality or public order, it would have to step in for disposal of the body.

First Published: Jul 05, 2017 11:13 IST