Chandigarh, Dec 15: The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday suspended an earlier order of a single-judge bench which had directed the Punjab government to perform the last rites of controversial, self-styled godman Ashutosh Maharaj.
A division bench of the high court put on hold the order of the single-judge bench, given Dec 1, which directed the Punjab government to perform the last rites of Ashutosh Maharaj within 15 days. [My father deserves last rites, says son of Frozen Baba Ashutosh Maharaj]
The next date of hearing is Feb 9, 2015.
Ashutosh Maharaj, 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 Jan 29 this year. [Dead or alive: The curious case of Ashutosh Ji Maharaj]
However, the sect management kept his body in a freezer claiming that the sect leader has gone into 'samadhi' (deep meditation). No one was allowed to take the body for examination nor any last rites were performed.
The matter was taken to the high court by Dalip Kumar Jha, who claimed to be son of Ashutosh Maharaj alias Mahesh Kumar Jha, in April this year. He sought from the court that he be given the mortal remains of his father for the last rites.
Another petitioner, Puran Singh, who claimed to be Ashutosh Maharaj's former driver, also approached the high court, seeking a CBI probe into the death of the god man.
In its earlier order, the court directed that a committee be constituted under the district magistrate to work out modalities the performing of 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 Maharaj's death is related to the control of these properties.
Despite being "clinically dead", Ashutosh Maharaj continues to have Z-category security provided by Punjab Police and central security forces.
The sect has thousands of followers in Punjab and neighbouring states.