India’s Supreme Court has suspended an order of the Rajasthan high court banning santhara – the controversial Jain ritual of fasting unto death.
Earlier this month, the high court had ruled that the voluntary religious practice of santhara was a form of suicide and, therefore, illegal.
Jains had protested against the order, saying suicide was sin, whereas santhara was religion.
On Monday, the top court said it would take up the issue for consideration.
Legal experts say they expect the case to take several years to come to a conclusion.
Jainism is one of the world’s most ancient religions, and Jain monks lead a life of extreme austerity and renunciation.
Santhara – also known as sallekhana – is a controversial practice in which a Jain gives up food and water with the intention of preparing for death.
Some human rights activists say the ritual is “a social evil” and should be considered as suicide.
In its order, the Rajasthan high court agreed that it amounted to suicide and made it a criminal offence.