All Parsis Can Now Vote in Parsi Panchayat Elections


May 2, 2008

Every Parsi, over the age of 18 years, will now have a vote in deciding the future of the Parsi community.

In a significant judgment, Bombay High Court on Wednesday entrusted the process of electing trustees of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) – a 350-year-old institution which controls the purse strings of Parsi trusts and is the biggest private landlord in the city – to all Parsis aged above 18.

Disbanding the Anjuman Committee, a 3000-member collegium which, so far, indirectly elected the seven trustees of the BPP, Justice S Radhakrishnan and Justice AV Mohta ruled, “It appears that since the entire (Parsi) community has accepted that it
is high time that every adult is given an opportunity to select the trustee and the said power should not be vested only in a limited body as that of Anju- man Committee.”

Rejecting the appeal filed by three Parsis, challenging the ushering in of universal adult franchise of direct elections of trustees, the HC directed the BPP to complete the process of enrolling new members above 18 years of age and preparing the electoral roll within two months. The election of the new trustees has to be completed within four months.

“This judgment will break the stronghold of block politics within the community, ease out nepotism and enable young Parsis to have a say in the way the community is governed,” said lawyer Jamshed Mistry.

The HC specified that a trustee, who has held the post for more than three terms of seven years each, could not stand for re-election. It would mean curtains for current trustee Mino Shroff, whose 21-year-term expired in 2007. Either the senior-most trustee would be the chairman, or he/she could be elected by a majority vote by the board of trustees. Every donor member will have two votes as against one vote of an ordinary member.

The scheme for electing BPP trustees, who look after the welfare of 50,000-odd Parsis in Mumbai, was originally sanctioned by the HC in June 1910. Several amendments were carried out after that. In January 2000, six BPP trustees moved HC, seeking approval to introduce universal adult franchise.

This move was in keeping with the popular consensus among the community that indirect elections of trustees through the Anjuman Committee we-re anomalous. In April 2007, a single judge of the HC sanctioned the proposed changes and lowered the age of voting from 21to 18 years.

The April 2007, the order was challenged by three Parsis, who contested that the HC did not have jurisdiction to approve the changes and four of the six trustees did not have locus standi to file the petition as they had resigned in June 2006. The HC rejected both contentions. It clarified that the resignations were merely tabled and not accepted by the board.

Original article here