Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Parsi Punchayet calls truce on priests issue

The Parsi Punchayet and two prominent Parsis Jamshed Kanga and Homi Khusrokhan reached a settlement on February 19 to put an end to a legal dispute that had been on since 2009 over the ban of two “renegade” Parsi priests. “The settlement has been arrived in larger public interests of the community and puts an end to very long drawn out litigation,” said a joint statement.

Kanga and Khusrokhan had petitioned the Bombay high court after the Punchayet in June 2009 banned two priests –Framroz Mirza and Khushroo Madon from performing any rites at the Tower of Silence in Doongerwadi and at two fire temples, one in Fort and the other at Malabar Hill for performing allegedly “irrelegious” ceremonies. In March 2011 the Bombay high court however, quashed the ban in an order that came as a huge setback to the Mumbai Parsi Punchayet. The HC held that the Trust has no powers to ban any ordained Parsi Zoroastrian priest from performing religious rites and ceremonies at the Tower of Silence and Agiaries.

The issue before the then HC bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Anoop Mohta was interpretation of the 127-year-old Trust Deed. The HC, stayed its direction against the 2009 ban for four weeks on a request made by the Punchayet and the battle was taken to the Supreme Court in appeal by the Punchayet where it has since been pending. The SC eventually appointed its retired judge Justice Sujata Manohar as mediator in November 2014. Earlier the foundation for a settlement was laid by Sriram Panchu, senior counsel, who was initially appointed as a mediator by the SC.

The joint statement said “all viewpoints within the community” were kept in mind while reaching the settlement in a “spirit of give and take.”

“The terms of the settlement remain under the umbrella of confidentiality, till they are accepted by the SC,” said the statement signed by Dinshaw Mehta, Punchayet chairperson, Kanga and Khusrokhan. If the matter however reverts to the SC for a resolution, nothing would survive of the mediated settlement.