The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the order issued by the Rajasthan High Court that banned Santhara--a ritual of fast unto death practised by Jains--by likening it with attempt to suicide.

The apex court has issued notices to both the Rajasthan HC and the Centre, asking them to answer within four weeks why the practice was banned, India Today reported.

Earlier this month, the Rajasthan High Court had banned Santhara and criminalised it under Sections 309 (attempt to commit suicide) and 306 (abetment to suicide) of IPC. Following this, a committee of Jains had moved the SC challenging the high court order.

The Rajasthan HC had pronounced the verdict after hearing a petition filed by human rights activist Nikhil Soni more than 10 years ago. In the petition, Soni had claimed that Santhara is a social evil.

"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 court had said in its verdict on 10 August.

The Jain followers practise Santhara or Sallekhana when they reach the end of their lives or when they suffer from some incurable disease or disability. As part of the practice, Jain followers embrace death by giving up food and water.