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The honourable Supreme Court of India today (31.08.2015) allowed the practise among Jain religion of fasting unto death named 'Santhara'. The said practise was banned by Rajasthan High Court. Notice has been given to Central Government and Rajasthan Governement to reply why such a practise is opposed.
Supreme Court of India legalised practise of santhana among Jain
Earlier a public interest litigation was filed by one Nikhil Soni in Rajasthan High Court alleging that the practise is unconstitutional and it constitutes suicide which is a crime. He also urge that the one who practises and the one who abets should be punished for attempt to suicide and abetment to commit the same under the provisions of Indian Penal Code. This had caused much strong protest from Jain community. According to reports Jains say that there is no compulsion upon anyone to take up Santhara. It is only an act to relieve one's soul from the sins of Karmas in this material world. It cannot be equated to suicide. It is a religious practise and there is nothing unconstitutional in it as the Constitution guarantees the right to follow and practise any religion of one's choice. However the Rajasthan High Court had banned the practise.
There are many opinions for and against such practises. It is to be learnt that this Supreme Court had once allowed Passive Euthanasia and declared that it is not crime. You can read the connected story here.
Jain community is happy with the verdict. However it is interesting to see how the apex Court gives its reasoning to legalise the voluntary act of death in the name of religion by judiciously and intelligently differentiating from the crime of suicide as there is possibility of more 'santhara-type' practises in future in the name of religion. It is interesting to note that the law made by the legislature is not clear in such aspects.

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