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Rajasthan: Jain practice of 'Santhara' is illegal, says High Court

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:37 IST

The Rajasthan High Court on 10 August passed a judgement which declared the Jain community's 'Santhara' practice as illegal.

What is the judgement?

  • The High Court has banned Santhara, and made it punishable under section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
  • It stated that Santhara is illegal in the eyes of law

Why the judgement?

  • The decision came after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by human rights activist and advocate Nikhil Soni about 10 years ago, in which he claimed that the ritual is a social evil and should be considered as suicide.
  • The court observed Santhara as suicide and stated that any person using religion as a reason for Santhara is liable to be charged.
  • This practice had come to light in 2006 when 93-year-old Keila Devi Hirawat from Jaipur had fasted unto death. Whether the modern world had any place for this ritual became a matter of debate.

What is Santhara?

  • It is a controversial Jain practice in which a person gives up food and water and fasts unto death.
  • The Swetambar (white sect) of the Jain community practises the age-old ritual. They consider it the ultimate way to attain 'moksha' (release from the cycle of rebirth).
  • It is usually adopted by a person who believes her or his life has served its purpose, which means it is practised mostly by elders nearing death or having no desire to live any more.

Reactions

  • The Jain community is unhappy with the court's verdict and is arguing that the ritual it is a voluntary act and a product of rational thinking that marks the beginning of a journey of understanding the inherently painful and flawed nature of earthly existence.
  • They claim this verdict is a direct violation of the Indian Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom.
First published: 11 August 2015, 11:35 IST
 
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