Law Department seeks details of notice to Parsi Punchayet

By Naresh Kamath / HT

MUMBAI: On the heels of the Charily Commissioner issuing n show-cause notice to the trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) the stale’s law department has intervened and sought a detailed report in the matter.

The Charity Commissioner had served notice on the trustees asking them why they should not be sacked for blocking a probe into alleged financial irregularities.

12_09_2009_003_001 It now turns out that on September 9, a day after the notice was issued to the trustees, the Law and Judiciary Department sent a letter to the Commissioner seeking details. "Minister of State (Law and Judiciary) has directed that the [|information] should be sent immediately. As such a detailed report should be sent." said the letter.

 

When contacted, Hasan Mushrif, Minister of state, Law and Judiciary, said he was busy campaigning in Kolhapur. "I will check the facts and let you know when I am in Mumbai."

The law department’s move was in response to the plea made by the BPP seeking relief from the fees of Rs l.2 crore to be paid to the auditors Nimesh Mehta and Associates who will be conducting a ‘Special Audit’ of the Punchayet’s transactions for the last  ten years.

“Our representations to the Charity Commissioner expressing inability to pay  such an exorbitant amount have fallen on deaf ears. I Hence we asked for the minister to intervene.” DINSHAW MEHTA. chairman. BPP

Talking to Hindus/an Times. Dinshaw Mehta, chairman. Parsi Punchayet said the trust had made representations to all the authorities to relax the amount.

He said the amount should be either recovered from the petitioner (Percy Patel) or the previous trustees whose term ended last year.

"Except me all the trustee* are new and it is unfair to target them" said Mehta.

However, petitioner Patel. who sought the special audit, said: The trustees should adopt transparency in their dealings instead of asking for such interventions."

The Charity commissioner has given an order only after we produced documentary evidence showing large scale irregularities" said Patel.

Petitioner Percy Patel. member of the Alert Zoroastrian Association, asked for a ‘special audit’ after he complained of large-scale irregularities in the daily functioning of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet.

Hindustan Times presents both sides of the story.

Petitioner: Irregularities in allotting houses. Instead of the poor, the Punchayet builds homes for the rich.

Defence: We are forced lo build for the rich since we use this money to cross subsidize to build for the poor. We have plans to build 3.500 houses for poor Par sis. Petitioner: Rich Parsis are being offered subsidized houses instead ol being charged at market rate.

Defence: We have to sell our houses only to Parsis hence we cannot get the market rate.

Petitioner: The contract for the hoarding at Malabar Hill was offered to a contractor for Rs 30 lakh annually when the market rate was Rs 3 crore.

Defence: It is an absolute tie and we have cancelled the contract. We are still ready to give the contract if anyone can off er us Rs 3 crore.

Petitioner. Poor Parsis are not given houses in colonies like Cusrow Baug at Colaba Rustom Baug at Byculla and Kheraghat Colony at Hughes Road.

Defence: The flats in these colonies cost crores of rupees, which the poor cannot afford. So. we buy houses costing less than Rs 25 lakh from Ihe tenants and allot them to the poor for free.

[Hat tip: Mickie Sorabjee]
  • Phiroz

    Are we going to have a fresh round of Elections? If so, all prospective candidates interested in getting elected are advised to:
    (i) All Ekta Kapoor Serials and learn the ‘art’ of shedding tears’
    (ii) join some academy to learn the gift of the gab;
    (iii)Engage disgraced ex Bank Employees to pose as “supporters’ of aspiring candidates.(Need not elaborate more at this point of time).

  • Siloo Kapadia

    With the fast decline of the Parsi population, we must first look at what is happening in Karachi. The Parsi population there is nearly all gone. The Parsi colony there is filled with deserted houses. Many of these homes are palacial, and can very well fetch a good price.

    Perhaps it is time to remove a good percentage of these homes from the rules and sell them to non-Parsis. Allow the owners to sell them to whomever. As it is the owners are mostly living abroad. When the homes/flats are sold, a portion can go into the “fund” to help the poor.

    What is happening in Karachi is bound to happen in India. I believe this is an excellent idea to help poor Parsis, help those that are straddled with these homes but can’t currently sell, and a way to face reality: that our presence South Asia will soon be a memory. Alas! Toba!

  • Firoze Hirjikaka

    I am not privy to the apparent grudge Percy Patel has against the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP), but he is treading a dangerous path that may prove hazardous to his own health. One reason why Parsis are generally respected by other communities is that they have not aired their dirty linen in public or, when they have – as during the recent BPP elections – they have restricted the mud slinging amongst themselves. It has also enabled a microscopic community, with zero political clout, to stay under the media and public radar; and to be left alone.

    By bringing the BPP to the unwanted notice of the Charity Commissioner (CC) and, moreover, invoking the state law minister and the Election Code of Conduct, Patel may have opened a can of worms he had not bargained for. While it is true that Parsis are too miniscule to pose a threat to anybody, one cannot lose sight of the fact that they are one of Mumbai’s largest landlords, with control over several hundred flats, many in prime localities. With land being worth its weight in gold in the maximum city; and given the enormous clout city builders have over state politicians, bringing the baug properties under the public glare does not bode well. As it is, according to a report in the Times of India (Sep 21),the CC has already displayed his contempt for the BPP by refusing to provide a copy of its preliminary report, taking cover under the Official Secrets Act. This, in spite of the Central Information Commissioner clarifying that all reports with the CC’s office have to be given to the public upon request. One can only hope that better sense prevails before it is too late.

  • Firoze

    Very, very well said. I am saddened that an individual is using the law to purport his own personal grudges. This is a very usual thing in the US which is a highly litigious society, and a lot of people abuse the law for their own personal greed/vendetta.

    I do not know enough of the case to say for sure whether Percy Patel is justified in his complaint or not. However this involves other people who will use this to their own political satisfaction. And there in lies the danger.

  • Rustomji Edulji Sethna

    Siloo, why this constant negativism against ideas/initiatives/institutions that don’t get with your way of thinking.

    How about a very Zoroastrian principle of “live and let live”.

    You are not even in South Asia. And with the way you always deride anyone/anything that is not on your wavelength here on Parsi Khabar, I wonder why this matters to you.

    Its one thing to be constructively critical. Its quite another thing to bring down whats existing just because you seem to disagree with it.

  • Phiroz

    Dear Mr. Hirjikaka,
    I can not agree with you views more.It appears that AZA is having a long standing grievance against one Individual Trustee who was also a Trustee in the earlier Board. This gentleman has indeed done treamendous work and is admired by many a Parsees. But since there allegations against him individually, would it not be better for his own reputation to remain aloof for some time and temporarily allow another Senior Trustee to Chair the meetings in the interim, pending propsed Audit.
    To my mind, nothing serious will emerge from the proposed Audit.What may come out may be insignificant deviations from established norms but then when was BPP professionally managed.
    The whole issue of Flat Allotments in deep freeze which is detrimental for the Common Bawas of Bombay.May wiser counsel prevail. There are more pressing issues before the Community and if we do not allow elected representatives to function, after another 6 years there will be sympathy wave in their favour rather than anti incumbeency.

  • Phiroz

    Mr. Rustomji Sethna,
    Does the lunatic fringe group allow neutral minded Parsees to practice live and live. Dogmas are imposed. Antiquated traditions are cited to perpetuate past practices which are redundant due to passage of time. The majority of the Community is too keen to avoid controversies and wants to be allowed to lead their daily life and practice religion in conformity with the prevailing conditions. But their fate is sealed by arm twisting of FAKE ORTHODOX who in reality are Fundamentalist with little diffrence in their level of thinking vis a vis Mullahs of another faith.

  • Anti Dhongidox.

    From the day alphabet organisations cropped up in our comminity, all that they have done is divide the tiny community. I have no love lost for AZA- their activities are not at all helpful for the community. But look at WAPIZ Ad page in current issue of FPJ. wherein they allege that AZA is being funded by as many possible individuals they could imagine. But their apprehension that Builders Lobby is possibly behind AZA is quite serious. If that is so,then all Parsee Zoroastrians should be allowed to use Doongarwadi property for prayers irrespective of mode of disposal.Let the members of the Community avail of the facility so that builders eyeing the property are kept at bay.
    But in reality, BPP is doing exactly the opposite,by excluding those who prefer alternate method of disposal by denying prayer Hall facility.Their acions are contrary to their intentions. By excluding such Parsee Zoroastrians, lesser number of community have access to the facilities. This would give Builder lobby to cite underutilisation of facilty to justify its sale. Are the BPP Trustees serious that Buliders lobby is backing AZA? The Community feels that WAPIZ is believing that all the readers are imbeciles.They should prove their intentions to save the property rather than creating a false scare. Till such time Resolution of previous Board (since rescinded) to allow prayer facilities is restored, the claim of WAPIZ as saviours will remain hollow. The community will infer that they are, as usual, experts in shedding crockodile tears and whipping up hysteria.