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A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday directed that the body of self-styled godman Ashutosh Maharaj be allowed to be preserved. The body of the controversial godman, who headed the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan (DJJS) sect with its headquarters at Nurmahal near Jalandhar, 175 km from here, was declared “clinically dead” by doctors on January 29, 2014.

As per the high court order, a team of doctors will examine the body of the godman. The sect will deposit Rs 50 lakh for this purpose. A division bench of the High Court had in December 2014 stayed an earlier order of a single judge bench which had directed the Punjab government to perform the last rites of the godman within 15 days.

The sect management has kept his body in a freezer for the past three-and-a-half years, claiming that the sect leader had gone into ‘samadhi’ (deep meditation). No one was allowed to take the body for examination and no last rites were performed. The matter was taken to the High Court by Dalip Kumar Jha, who claimed to be son of Ashutosh alias Mahesh Kumar Jha, in April 2014 saying he be given the mortal remains of his father.

The division bench on Wednesday asked Jha to file a separate civil suit for DNA test to verify his claim. Another petitioner, Puran Singh, who claimed to be the sect leader’s former driver, had also approached the court, seeking a CBI probe into the death of Ashutosh. In its earlier order, the court directed that a committee be constituted under the district magistrate to work out how to do the last rites of the sect leader. The sect has properties and assets running into hundreds of crores of rupees and there are reports that the mystery of Ashutosh’s death is related to the control of these properties.

The sect has thousands of followers in Punjab and neighbouring states. Despite being “clinically dead”, Ashutosh continued to have Z-category security from the Punjab Police and central security forces. The body is guarded by over 25 armed personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Punjab Police.

First Published | 5 July 2017 3:08 PM
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