Decoding the Judgment (on Santhara/Sallekhana) of the Rajasthan High Court, Jaipur Bench


The Jain religion is possibly the oldest living religion being practised all over the world. Literature in Tamil (the most oldest classical language), Sankrit, Kannada and Marathi, Gujarati etc. is also plenty. The epigraphic records in Indian landscape are testimony to Jain practices including Santhara/Sallekhana which is hailed as Vadakkiruththal (meditating facing north) in ancient Tamil literature. The PIL has been influenced by an incident of alleged glorification of Santhara-led death in Jaipur in 2006. The centuries-old practice which was not banned even during Muslim and British rules has received this jolt by this judgment in the Independent India. It must be stated that the battery of leaned advocates for respondents tried very hard to plead for the dismissal of the PIL. The State of Rajasthan must be commended for supporting this practice before the Hon’ble Court. The Hon’ble Court has cited many instances such as sati, human sacrifice, producing more children as a part of religious practices that came up for adjudication and judgments including those adjudicated by the Constitution benches to drive home the point that making an exception to this practice under the law of the land is not possible. The Hon’ble Judges have found merit in the PIL on the grounds that Santhara/Sallekhana is not an essential part of the Jain religion and that the respondents have failed to produce evidences that this practice can be saved under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

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