jain monk
A Svetambara sect monk at a Jain temple in Mumbai [Representational Image]Creative Commons/Andrew Robertson

The Rajasthan High Court has declared that the Jain starvation ritual 'Santhara' illegal on Monday, making it punishable under section 309 IPC (Attempt to Commit Suicide) and 306 IPC (Abetment of Suicide).

The ritual was banned, following a Public Interest Litigation filed by human rights activist Nikhil Soni a decade ago, claiming that the ritual is a social evil that should be considered a suicide.

"The state shall stop and abolish the practice of Santhara in the Jain religion in any form. Any complaint made in this regard shall be registered as a criminal case and investigated by the police in the light of the recognition of law in the Constitution of India and in accordance with section 309 (attempt to suicide) and section 306 (abetment)," The Times of India quoted the court of chief justice Sunil Ambwani and justice VS Siradhana as saying.

The ancient ritual, also called Sallekhana, is the voluntary starvation to embrace death.

The Swethambar (White sect) community, which practises the age-old ritual, considers it the ultimate way to attain moksha when one's life has served its purpose.

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