Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Parsis urge leaders to drop case against ‘rebel’ priests

Bombay Parsi Punchayet, which has already spent Rs 3 crore on litigation, insists on pursuing the case even though many in the community feel the issue could easily be settled out of court.

06-1 The Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) has spent Rs 3 crore from the community’s funds over the past three years to fight a case against two ‘renegade’ priests who perform religious ceremonies for Parsis who choose to be cremated, and navjote for children with non-Parsi fathers. The expenditure has, however, not gone down well with many Parsis, who feel that pursuing the case is a waste of money.

The two priests – Framroze Mirza and Khushroo Madon – were in 2009 banned by the BPP from performing rituals inside Doongerwadi and two BPP-controlled fire temples. Eminent Parsis Jamsheed Kanga and Homi Khushrokhan had challenged the ban on behalf of the two priests. While the high court quashed the ban in 2011, the BPP challenged the decision in the Supreme Court, which appointed a mediator to try and settle the dispute amicably. However, on Tuesday, the attempt at mediation failed, with the majority of the seven BPP trustees opting against it.

Jehangir Patel, editor of Parsiana, a Mumbaibased magazine for the community, termed the Rs 3 crore expenditure a “criminal waste of the community fund”. He said, “Money is being spent on preventing a priest from praying three to four times a year. This matter could have been settled easily, but they have made it a prestige issue.”

While Mirza and Madon are banned from the two BPP-controlled fire temples, they do continue to perform religious ceremonies in agiyaris that are not under the purview of the BPP. However, the ban from Doongerwadi has hurt them the most.

Another member of the community, Behram Aga, said, “Such a huge amount of money is being used simply for propaganda as the BPP elections are due in 2015. With this issue, they can assert that they are protectors of our religion.”

“Also, no one will ever get to know the real expenditure. There is always jugglery with accounts,” said Aga, a resident of the Parsi colony in Parel village.

BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta confirmed that the litigation expenditure had touched Rs 3 crore. “We have senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi fighting the case. Other lawyers travel business-class from Mumbai and are given fivestar accommodation when they go for the hearings. The expenditure is not justified at all but we cannot do anything if the majority of the trustees do not want mediation,” said Mehta. With BPP’s insistance on fighting the case in court, community members fear of losing several more crores in the coming years.