Residents of the landmark Dadar Parsi Colony, the largest Zoroastrian enclave in the world, have won a six-year-long legal battle to allow only members of this tiny community to live in this ‘reserved area’.
By Nauzer Bharucha | TNN
The city civil court has granted a permanent injunction restraining the builder from selling flats to anyone who is not a Parsi-Irani Zoroastrian.
“Monday’s court ruling is important for the community because it is necessary to protect our identity, customs and traditions which can be maintained by living together in an enclave. It must, however, be emphasised that the Parsi-only covenant is not directed against any community as such,’’ said Dinyar Panthaki, a Dadar resident, who had been pursuing the case. Of the 45,000 Zoroastrians in Mumbai, as many as 10,000 live in Dadar Parsi Colony alone.
The three plots—726, 727 and 688—in Dadar Parsi Colony have had a Parsi-only covenant since the time these buildings were constructed about 80 years ago for community members. All the three buildings were sold to the developer some years ago. Early this decade, the building on plot 727 was demolished and reconstructed by developer, Shubh Enterprises, under Development Control Rule 33/7, which pertains to theredevelopment of old cessed properties in the island city.
The builder wanted to sell the additional flats in the redeveloped building to non-Parsis. This led the Parsee Central Association Cooperative Housing Society to approach the court in 2003. The society was formed at the turn of the last century with the aim to acquire lands and construct buildings and let them out to members of the Parsee Zoroastrian community.
“The principal issue involved in this suit is whether the covenant, which restricts the use of flats in reserved area of Dadar Matunga Estate to Parsi Zoroastrians only, is a good covenant and is enforceable against non-Parsis who seek to occupy flats in reserved area through the builder,’’ said the suit filed by the society.
The court granted a permanent injunction restraining the builder from letting out or transferring any part or portion of the building to anyone who was not a member of the community. In 2007, the state urban development department had issued a letter to the BMC, upholding the Parsi-only covenant in this colony. In the late 1920s, The Bombay Improvement Trust and the society had signed an agreement for a 999-year lease of several plots in the reserved area (Dadar Matunga Estate) with certain restrictive covenants by which no member other than the members of the Parsi Zoroastrian community could use and occupy the premises.
“Various institutions and organisations of Parsis have grown up catering to the needs of the community in the reserved area for over 75 years. The reserved area has been sort of a nucleus for bringing up children in religious practices in the formative years and inculcate in them religious teachings. A right atmosphere is created in the reserved area which is conducive to the upbringing of Parsi Zoroastrian children in their way of life and to preserve their culture. Breach of covenant would adversely affect the religious, social, cultural and traditional continuity, solidarity and advancement of the small community,’’ said the society.
The developer, on its part, submitted that the matter was not based on either the bylaws or rules and regulations of the cooperative society but was based on the enforceability of a “restrictive covenant’’ under the Transfer of Property Act.
The developer further contended that the lease deeds were made over 75 years ago. “The conditions that prevailed then and the needs of the society existing at that time were quite different and cannot be compared with those which exist (now),’’ said the defendants. The developer had made an offer to sell the flats only to members of the community but at the prevailing market rate. But the society turned down this offer as the houses in this area were meant to be subsidised for community members. The society was represented by advocates Mulla & Mulla while the developer was represented by Divya Shah Associates. The matter is expected to be challenged in the high court by the builder.
Nearly 10,000 of Mumbai’s 45,000 Zoroastrians stay here
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