Published On: Mon, Aug 31st, 2015

Supreme Court stays Rajasthan HC’s order on Santhara

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Santhara- a Jain ritual of voluntary and systematic fasting to death

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed a Rajasthan High Court order in which it had banned the Jain practice of Santhara, or starving oneself to death in order to attain spiritual salvation. Earlier, Rajasthan High Court’s order declared it as a criminal offence and issued a notice to Centre and the Rajasthan government. The court, which had last reserved its judgment after the completion of arguments on April 23, declared that “Santhara is illegal in the eyes of law”.

The HC had on August 10 declared the practice of Santhara or Sullekhana as illegal and held that any person supporting the practice would be prosecuted for attempt of suicide. A person, after taking a vow of Santhara, stops eating and drinking water and awaits death.

A batch of separate appeals against the HC order was filed in the Supreme Court by Jain organisations and one Dhawal Jiwan Mehta.

The petition by Akhil Bharat Varshiya Digambar Jain Parishad said that Santhara was not an act to terminate one’s life but a vow intended to purify the soul from the karmas, and it could not be equated with the offence of suicide.

“Conceptually Santhara or Sallekhana is different from suicide as this vow is not taken either in passion or in anger, deceit, etc. It is a conscious process of spiritual purification where one does not desire death but seeks to live his life, whatever is left of it, in a manner so as to reduce the influx of karmas,” the petition said.

Thousands of Jains had held a ‘silent march’ to protest the Rajasthan high court judgement banning the religious ritual of fast unto death. Members of both Shwetambar and Digambar sects participated in marches which were held in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradhesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam and other states.

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