The Rajasthan High Court earlier this month made "Santhara"punishable under section 306 and 309 IPC (abatement of suicide).
The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Rajasthan High Court order declaring the ritual of Santhara a penal offence.
In what would mean revival of the practice, a bench led by Chief Justice H L Dattu ordered a stay on the HC order and issued notices to the state government and others.
The Rajasthan High Court had banned ‘Santhara’, a Jain ritual of voluntary fasting to death, and making it an offence under Section 309 (attempt to suicide) of IPC.
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 abetment 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.
The HC had said that Santhara was not an essential religious practice of the Jain community which was to be protected under right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.
“The state shall stop and abolish the practice of Santhara in the Jain religion in any form. Any complaint made in this regard shall be registered as a criminal case and investigated by the police in the light of the recognition of law in the Constitution of India and in accordance with Section 309 (attempt to suicide) and Section 306 (abetment),” the HC had said.