Ban lifted on Jain ritual of voluntary fasting to death

The centuries-old practice of Santhara has been in the eye of a storm since 2006

GN Bureau | August 31, 2015


#jain   #death   #santhara   #rajasthan   #supreme court   #high court  

The supreme court has stayed Rajasthan high court's order declaring Santhara, a Jain ritual of voluntary and systematic fasting to death, as a criminal offence and issued a notice to centre and the Rajasthan government.

A division bench of the Rajasthan High Court, comprising chief justice Sunil Ambwani and Justice VS Siradhana on August 10 called the practice punishable under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The high court had declared Santhara as illegal under section 309 of the IPC (punishment for attempted suicide). The high court had also held that any endorsement of Santhara by the members of the community amounted to abetment to suicide.

The centuries-old practice of Santhara has been in the eye of a storm since 2006 when the case of 93-year-old Keila Devi Hirawat from Jaipur had international media debating whether there was any place for such a ritual in the modern world. Practised mostly by elders nearing death or having no desire to live any more, this ritual demands the practitioner to even sacrifice drinking water and is not advisable for young adults or children.

The ban on the Jain ritual came after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by human rights activist and advocate Nikhil Soni a decade ago. The activist claimed the ritual is a social evil and should be considered as suicide.

One of the concerns raised in the petition was that it is old people, who usually resort to Santhara, and allowing an elderly person to suffer without medical assistance, food and water is inhuman.

Last week, a Jain body had moved the supreme court challenging the high court order declaring the ritual of Santhara or fasting unto death a penal offence. "It is a victory of India's traditions," a petitioner told reporters outside the apex court.

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.

Jains argue that it is a voluntary act of rational thinking and marks the beginning of a journey of understanding the inherently painful and flawed nature of earthly existence. For millions of Jains in India, the PIL was a direct violation of the Indian Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom.

While opponents of Santhara equate the practice with suicide and argue that it's a fundamental breach of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life, supporters say that the right to life includes a corresponding right not to live.

Comments

 

Other News

Soumya Swaminathan to head M S Swaminathan Research Foundation

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan takes charge as chairperson of M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) from February 1.   Founded by her father, the legendary agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan, MSSRF was set up to accelerate the use of m

m-Governance: Key to Digital India

The digital revolution is being led by India. Digital governance is a key component of the government's ambition to transform India into a society where everyone has access to the internet. It includes both M-governance and E-governance, which are major methods for the delivery of services via mobile devic

A sacred offering of the beauty of ‘Saundarya Lahari’ – in English

Saundarya Lahari: Wave of Beauty Translated from the Sanskrit by Mani Rao HarperCollins, 218 pages, Rs 399 ‘Saundarya Lahari’, usually ascribed to Adi Shankaracharya, has a unique status among the religious-spiritual works of Hinduism.

The Boy Who Became the Mahatma

This year, as the nation commemorates the 75th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, Rajesh Talwar, a prolific author who is also a legal advisor to the UN, is all set to release a play for children on non-violence chronicling the life of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘The Boy Who Became the Mahat

What makes Sundargarh the cradle of hockey in India

Neha Lakra, 20, doesn’t forget to practise hockey, at least for four hours, every day. Whether at home or at the Panposh sports hostel in Rourkela where she is training under the guidance of coaches, her routine doesn’t change. “I can’t sleep unless I have worked on the ground,&rdqu

Where the true sadhana of Vedanta is to be found

Somewhere Among the Stars: Reflections of a Mystic By Adi Varuni Kali/BluOne Ink, 282 pages, Rs 395 Decades ago, when an unknown N

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now



Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter