Santhara case: Supreme Court had stayed Rajasthan HC judgment which branded Jainism’s centuries Old ‘Santhara or Sallekhaan’ custom as attempt to suicide warranting prosecution under section 306 of Indian penal code. What is Santhara? Santhara is a supplementary vow to the ethical code of conduct of Jainism. In fact, it is the religious practice of the voluntarily fasting to death by gradually reducing the intake of the food and also liquids. Petitioners view:

  • In the year of 2006, Jaipur-based lawyer Mr Nikhil Soni filed a public interest litigation and also sought directions under the Article 226 to the central and also state governments to treat Santhara, the fast unto death practised by Swetambara Jains (Digambars call it Sallekhana), as illegal and also punishable under the laws of the land.
  • However, the PIL argued that the death by Santhara was not a fundamental right under the Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion), because it violated the right to life guaranteed under the Article 21.
  • In fact, it argued that religious freedom is subject to the public order, morality and also health.
Arguments by Jain Community:
    • Well the representatives for the community argued that the Santhara/Sallekhana is an ancient religious practice which aimed at self-purification.
    • Furthermore, the vow of Santhara/Sallekhana is taken when all the purposes of life have been served, or when the body is unable to serve any kind of purpose of life.
    • The practice of Sallekhna does not interfere with public order, health or morality. Sallekhna is pinnacle of glory of life and death. Moreover, it is not an immolation but it is the promotion of soul. 
    • The right of individuals to practice Sallekhana or Santhara is protected by right of privacy. The practice of Santhara has been recognized by Privy Council in the year 1863 to be prevalent from time immemorial.
    • The Article 26 lays down that the every religious denomination or any section there of shall have the right to manage its own affairs in the matter of the religion.
Question: Critically examine if the practice of Santhara holds a legal space in the Indian Political System. (250 Words) Read Also: Lingayat’s Demand for a Separate Religion