A Parsi woman who challenged rejection of her nomination to contest Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) elections got no immediate relief from Bombay high court. HC referred to her “obvious reluctance’’ to obtain confirmation that her proposer, Rustom Jeejeebhoy, member of the illustrious Jeejeebhoy family, continues to profess Zoroastrianism. Elections to two vacancies are on March 14 but BPP will approach court to postpone the elections in view of Covid.
Article in the Times of India
BPP said it was unaware of his conversion till some voters and candidates informed it after the final date of nominations on February 1. It relied on a social media page from last July of a lecture to be conducted by Jeejeebhoy in a ‘Reflective Bible seminar’ on the ‘Book of Ruth’, which said he had converted in 2005.
BPP argued that if a person did not qualify as a Parsi, there was no purpose contending his name continued to be on the general register. HC found prima facie merit in this contention.
Punchayat had on February 18 rejected the nomination of Zuleika Homavazir, a professor at Wilson College, as Jeejeebhoy converted to Christianity and was a pastor. BPP said it got information that Jeejeebhoy renounced Zoroastrianism, so he was ineligible to nominate her. She moved HC to question her disqualification as a candidate.
The key plea, noted Justice A K Menon, was to stay invalidation of her nomination and allow her to contest.
She said soon after filing nominations she “learnt of rumours from WhatsApp messages and social media that Jeejeebhoy, her proposer, had converted to Christianity, having renounced the Zoroastrianism’’. The HC order said she apparently tried to reach him and checked the general register, which had his name. As a precaution on February 1, the last date for filing nominations, she wrote to BPP to accept her father as ‘co-proposer’.
Her counsel, Rajeev Singh, raised 14 issues and said allegations that Jeejeebhoy converted were “not substantiated’’, so her invalidation was “without due process’’. It was the trustees’ duty to prepare the voters’ list. Since Jeejeebhoy’s name was on the list, whether or not he had converted, was not relevant at this stage.
BPP, through counsel Somasekhar Sunderasan, said, “There is serious doubt if her proposer continues to profess Zoroastrianism’’. He produced the affidavit of trustee Noshir Dadrewala in support of their opposition to her candidature.
HC said the trust relies on its reply and annexures “which reveal prima facie that Jeejeebhoy converted to Christianity’’.
HC said if Jeejeebhoy continued to profess his original faith, it was easy for her to get him to say it on oath.