Parsi Punchayet Trustees Nearly Come To Blows

With weeks to go for elections, chairman and trustee trade allegations, and one nearly hurls a chair.

The hallowed board room of the 300-year-old Bombay Parsi Punchayet witnessed acrimony on Tuesday night with the 73-year-old trust chairman allegedly trying to attack a fellow trustee with a chair following an argument.

06-01With just weeks to go before the hotly-contested trust elections, longstanding animosity between chairman Dinshaw Mehta and Trustee Yazdi Desai came out in the open as they traded allegations of wrongdoing during a meeting to discuss matters pertaining to the Gamadia Hostel in Tardeo.

Besides the seven trustees of the cash-rich trust that controls the second largest land bank in the city, the hostel’s caterer Keki Darji and two other BPP executives were present in the boardroom.

According to trustees, while Darji pays a rent of Rs 20,000 to BPP, Desai was of a view that he should be charged Rs 1 lakh per month given that the hostel is in a prime location and he gets to use unlimited electricity and water too.

The heated argument began when Desai allegedly accused Mehta of taking Rs 12 lakh from Darji to let him continue with the contract in low rent.

“He started making false allegations on me,” Mehta told Mirror. “I got extremely furious,” said Mehta, who then allegedly called Desai and his wife Anahita “chors”.

In turn, Desai is believed to have retorted: Taru khandan chor. “I could not control my anger when he abused my family. That’s when I picked up a pencil on my desk and threw it at him,” Mehta admitted to Mirror.

However, Desai claimed that after throwing the pencil, Mehta got up from the chair and charged at him. “He came to pounce on me and picked up a chair to throw at me. Thankfully, the other people in the room controlled him and no one was hurt,” said Desai.

In an audio recording of the meeting Mirror accessed, another member is heard pacifying the duo. A member present in the room told Mirror that the chaos led to abrupt ending of the meeting but Mehta and Desai continued to abuse each other.

“They were shouting and using cuss words. It was clear that the fight was not merely about the Gamadia Hostel issue but the personal enmity between the two,” said the member.

Mehta, however, denied that he picked up a chair to attack Desai. “I am 73. I have recently suffered with ligament tear in the knee and have been limping. I simply stumbled and caught hold of the chair for support. Desai is twisting and turning facts to present them from his side so that he looks like a victim,” Mehta said, adding that the Gamadia hostel contract could not be renewed due to an ongoing stay of charity commissioner on BPP properties.

However, Desai said it is only because of Mehta that Darji is making huge business by paying low rent. “The caterer supplies more than 300 tiffins and pays only Rs 20,000. He also has his office in the hostel premises that is meant only for Parsi students and eight of his staff members live there. This is only happening because Darji is close to Mehta,” said Desai adding that he had taken up the issue of losses of over Rs 12 lakh suffered by the BPP due to this. “I never said that Mehta had taken Rs 12 lakh. I said BPP had suffered these losses,” he clarified.

Darji told Mirror: “There was lot of mud slinging. It was a situation where two people lost their tempers. Lot of chairs were pushed and moved during the heated argument besides the verbal abusing.”

Mehta and Desai are known to have differences over majority of issues pertaining to the BPP. Community members, however, said the real enmity began after the controversial sale in July 2013 of tenancy of Dady House, a commercial property at Bora Bazar Street in Fort. The sale of tenancy of Dady House had led to an uproar among Parsis after Mehta claimed Rs 45 lakh was paid, while Desai alleged the sale was fixed at Rs 65 lakh.

Over a period of time, the trustees got divided with four on one side including Desai and three on the other in support of Mehta.

Mehta cannot contest the upcoming elections as he is completing stipulated 21 years of being a trustee. Mehta has approached court pointing out a discrepancy in the ending of his tenure. While majority of trustees say that Mehta was last appointed in July 2008, Mehta claims he took office in October 2008.

The court continued the stay on announcing the date of elections till it reopens on June 9.