Madhya Pradesh High Court pointed out PILs against Bageshwar Dham Katha event in the state appeared sponsored (Image: Jagran)

On May 22, the Jabalpur Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court dismissed the second Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed to stop Bageshwar Dham’s religious event in the state. The event is scheduled for May 23 and May 24 at Rani Durgavati Mahavidyalay Ground, village Linga in Paraswada of district Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh.

During the hearing, Justice Vivek Agarwal warned the advocate of contempt of court if he continued to argue with the bench inappropriately. The advocate appearing for the “Tribal” organisation claimed that organising such an event would hurt the religious sentiments of the tribals. When Justice Vivek Agarwal asked him to explain the traditions of the ‘Bada Dev Bhagwan Sthal’ (Religious place of Tribals) of the area and how tribals’ sentiments would be hurt. The advocate read a paragraph from the petition that was vague with no detailed information on the local traditions.

Justice Vivek interrupted the advocate and explained his question in Hindi and English so that the counsel could understand. Confused by the question, the advocate could not provide any detail of the primitive traditions and said they do not have a problem if the event was held at another place. Justice Vivek said, “You are not answering my question. Who are you to decide where the event will take place and where it cannot take place?”

The advocate got agitated and said, “I am trying to explain it through Constitution but you are not listening to me.” Justice Vivek warned him to talk properly. Advocate said, “You are not listening to me. ‘Kuch bhi bole ja rahe hain’ (You are saying whatever you want)” to the judge.

Justice Vivek did not take the advocate’s tone lightly and asked to issue a contempt notice against him. The advocate continued to speak inappropriately and said, “I am trying to mention the provisions under Article 51 but you are not ready to listen.” He further asked the judge to listen to his argument first.

Justice Vivek again warned him of contempt if he continued to speak to the bench in an appropriate manner after which the advocate apologised. The advocate’s associate came and asked him to calm down. Justice Vivek, who was visibly angry at the way the advocate behaved, said, “First answer my questions then we will read the constitution. Don’t try to be over-smart. If you try to argue inappropriately, I will send you directly to jail from here.

Your practice will be finished.” He added, “You think that by behaving inappropriately (in the court) you will gain TRP). But you forget the day we send you to jail, your practice will be over”. “You are trained to behave inappropriately,” he added.

Interestingly, the advocate who submitted the PIL did not read the previous judgment that was given by Justice Vivek Agarwal on May 18 where he had dismissed a similar plea. When the advocate failed to explain the judgment, Justice Vivek pointed out it looked like a “sponsored PIL”. The PIL was dismissed on the ground that the advocate was not fully prepared. The advocate tried to argue that the event was scheduled for May 23 and May 24 to which the judge replied that he should have thought this before.

‘No need to take permission from Gram Sabha for events’

Earlier, on May 18, Justice Vivek Agarwal-led Jabalpur Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court dismissed a PIL filed on behalf of Adivasi Vikas Parishad’s Dinesh Kumar Dhruve by Advocate Prahlad Choudhary. In the PIL, the petitioner argued that as the area was tribal, such events would affect them.

Justice Vivek asked to explain how it would affect the tribals, the counsel cited PESA Act and claimed permission of Gram Sabha was necessary for such events. He also argued that all the tribals in the area were against the event.

‘Bageshwar Dham events in view of upcoming elections’

Advocate Choudhary also argued that Madhya Pradesh Assembly Elections are scheduled in late 2023 and Bharatiya Janata Party is using Bageshwar Dham events to lure voters. He claimed that there has been a spike in invitations to Pandit Dhirendra Shastri Bageshwar Dham Maharaj to hold ‘Katha’ events across the state by BJP leaders. Furthermore, he claimed that such events cost crores that only political parties such as BJP can afford. Justice Vivek categorically asked him not to make political comments and pointed out that the article he was referring to was not listed in the documents.

Advocate Chaudhary launched an attack on Bageshwar Dham events claiming it promotes Hindutva and thus affects the social structure of the region. He claimed the leaders were using the stage for propagating religious disharmony.

Justice Vivek called out the advocate for filing a “sponsored” PIL. He said if such permissions were required, Gram Sabha should have approached the court, not some organisation. He added that there was no valid argument on how the event would affect the tribals.

Advocate Jahnvi Pandit argued for the state. She said that in PESA Act, the permission of Gram Sabha was not required. Furthermore, she pointed out the PIL looked sponsored. The state and local administration permitted looking into the law and order situation.

Series of attacks on Pandit Dhirendra Shastri Bageshwar Dham Maharaj

In the last few months, videos of Pandit Dhirendra Shastri Bageshwar Dham Maharaj have gone viral on social media, particularly for the reason of him being a firebrand Kathavachak promoting Hinduism. Lakhs of devotees attend his ‘Katha’ events. Recently, attempts were made to stop an event in Bihar by the state government. Reacting to the series of attacks against him, Pandit Dhirendra Shastri gave the example that when the elephant goes out on a round in the village, people feed it bananas, puris and various other dishes. Children worship the elephant as Ganesha. At the same time, stray dogs start barking at the elephant. In such a situation, if the elephant starts responding to the dogs, then people will call the elephant crazy. Therefore, the elephant keeps moving forward on its way ignoring those dogs.