An Indian court has been asked to decide whether a Hindu spiritual leader is dead or meditating.

The family and followers of His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, the founder of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan religious order, are entrenched in a legal battle over whether he is dead or simply in a deep state of meditation, the Daily Telegraph reports.

According to his wife and son, the guru died in January and was declared clinically dead. However, his disciples at his Ashram have refused to let the family take his body for cremation because they claim he is still alive and simply in a deep meditation, which he promoted through his teachings. They have been keeping his body in a commercial freezer to preserve it for when he wakes from it.

Police initially confirmed his death, but the Punjab High Court later dismissed the report. Local governmental officials said it was a spiritual matter and that the guru's followers cannot be forced to believe he is dead.

Now the guru's family has filed a court application calling for an investigation into the circumstances of his death and asking for his body to be released for cremation.