SC stays order banning Jain practice of 'Santhara'

SC stays order banning Jain practice of 'Santhara'

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Rajasthan High Court’s order terming “a form of suicide” the Jain ritual of “Santhara”, a practice of giving up food and water to embrace death.

The high court’s decision had triggered large-scale protest from the community members across the country. A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice Amitava Roy issued notice to human rights activist and advocate Nikhil Soni on whose PIL the HC had passed its verdict on August 10.
The court admitted a batch of petitions filed by Akhil Bharat Varshiya Digambar Jain Parishad and others, contending “Santhara” ritual was not an act to terminate one’s life but a vow taken for spiritual purification for the remaining part of one’s life.

After a brief hearing, the court granted leave and put the matter for consideration.

The petitioners represented by senior advocates Harish Salve, Sushil Kumar Jain and others, claimed that “Santhara” was meant to purify the soul from the karmas and it cannot 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 but 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,” they said.

Other side

Instead, the petitioners said, suicide is an offence of passion, abhorred in the Jain religion. “Suicide is undertaken by a person in severe bouts of passion in anger, depression or hatred, antithetical to the concept of peaceful and joyous renunciation which is the basis of sallekhana or santhara,” they said. 

The petitioners submitted that the high court’s order was unjustified in declaring the holy and peaceful practice of “Santhara” by comparing it with suicide and making such practice punishable under Sections 306 (abetment for suicide) and 309 (punishment for suicide) of the IPC.

“Santhara” being a religious practice is based on the ancient traditions of Jainism.

 True meaning and philosophy of this religious belief and practice could only be explained by references to the revered scriptures, which include Shloka and mantras, they added.

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