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Singhvi, Salve, Subramanium fight for fasting rights for Jains; SC stays Raj HC judgment

Singhvi, Salve, Subramanium fight for fasting rights for Jains; SC stays Raj HC judgment

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court yesterday stayed the judgment of the Rajasthan High Court which had held that the practice of Santhara among adherents of Jain religion will attract penal liability under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Gopal Subramanium and Harish Salve appeared for the appellants.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Amitava Roy issued notice and stayed the High Court judgment in a batch of petitions filed by various individuals and religious bodies of Jain community against the High Court judgment.

The practice of Santhara by Jains involve abstention from food and water and the same was held by the High Court as an attempt to commit suicide punishable under Section 309.

The petition filed by lead petitioner Dhawal Jiwan Mehta states that any attempt to restrict Santhara will amount to a violation of Articles 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

Besides these Mehta has submitted that one of the reasons for the practice of Santhara is the Jain belief that even food and water has life and consumption of other lives for human survival is restricted in Jainism.

The petition states the following:

“Jainism believes that food and water have life and also proven by Science. Humans for their survival thrives on food and water. Ahimsa (as construed by Jainism) included abstention of food and water since they have life. On enlightenment of these highest principles of Jainism, if a Jain abstains from food and water, the same is not to attain death as sought to be construed but is towards the principles of absolute ahimsa. Consumption of lives of other beings of Universe (whether the same can be seen with naked eyes or not) for human survival is restricted in the tenets of Jainism.”

When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, the Bench proceeded to issue notice and stay the High Court judgment without even requiring the three Senior Advocates to make their submissions.