Supreme Court Stays High Court Ban on Jain Santara

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The Supreme Court in its recent decision on the issue of Jain Santhara presided by the bench consisting of Chief Justice of India H.L.Dattu and Justice Amitava Roy granted a stay on the Rajasthan High Court’s judgment delivered on August 10 criminalising the Jain community’s practice of Santhara-meaning abstinence from food and water by a person, who awaits death- and issued notice to the respondents in the case. The Rajasthan High Court on August 10th held ‘santhara’ as illegal making it punishable under section 306 and 309 of IPC related to abetement of suicide. A PIL filed in the HC by advocate Nikhil Soni in 2006 had challenged the legality of Santhara. The petitioner’s lawyer had said Santhara, which is fast unto death by giving up food and water, violated the most precious right to life. In this case many petitions were filed by various religious bodies of Jain community members against the High Court order on Santhara. The petitions claimed that the High Court erred in equating the religious practice with the offence of suicide. The Supreme Court granted an ex-parte stay on the judgment as refusal to stay would have meant that the Jains as a religious community would have had to suffer interim loss of their religious freedom.

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