Court hears PIL against Parsi poll malpractice

Hundreds Of Names Appear More Than Once In BPP’s Register

Nauzer Bharucha I TNN

Mumbai: With barely a week left for the elections to the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) — the largest private landlord in the city — the Bombay high court on Thursday heard a public interest litigation (PIL), alleging electoral malpractices.

For the first time in the history of the over 350-year-old BPP, 25,000-odd Parsis will be able cast their vote to elect seven trustees, who will control a corpus of Rs 120 crore, 5,000 flats and the sprawling Towers of Silence at Malabar Hill.

The elections will be held over three weekends starting October 3 in different parts of the city. On Thursday, two community members, Jamshed Irani and Hormazd Dhaneshwar, told a division bench the names of hundreds of voters had been mentioned twice or thrice in the BPP’s general register.

The bench, comprising chief justice Swatanter Kumar and justice A P Deshpande, gave the BPP a fortnight to file its reply and said its final order would be binding on the punchayat.

The two petitioners said the electoral roles prepared by the existing punchayat trustees (two of whom are recontesting) show a “deliberate duplication” of voters. In many cases, individual voters’ names have repeated thrice in the rolls, but they bear different addresses and electoral roll numbers.

 

The petition cited the case of one Dhun Baria, a resident of Gilder Lane, whose name appears under roll number 1557 showing her address as Tardeo and under roll number 1578 with the address as Lamington Road.

The petitioners said the manner in which the outgoing trustees are conducting the elections “causes reasonable apprehensions in the mind of the Parsee community that the election will not be free and fair…” The petition said this would be akin to “fake elections conducted in certain tinpot republics.”

The PIL stated that with the BPP elections spread over 21 days and the fingermarking ink lasting for not more than five days, the electorate fears that the duplication was deliberately done by the trustees, whose intentions were mala fide. The PIL further said that some builders, who are standing as candidates, seeking a piece of plum property that the BPP controls. “Some of them have openly declared their intentions to exploit trust property if elected,” it said.

The petition stated that unless the court gives proper directions regarding security of ballot papers and ballot boxes in safe custody of a court-appointed officer, the trustees are likely to rig the elections.

The PIL has asked the court to order the BPP trustees to remove the duplicate and triplicate names from the electoral rolls, appoint an officer to supervise the elections and place the ballot boxes under police security until the results are declared.

 

NO ELECTION RULES

The World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis (WAPIZ), which has nominated four candidates, has said there are no rules of conduct for the forthcoming elections. “The BPP chairman most surprisingly stated that there was no need to have any rules of conduct for the elections and all parties should act in the ‘spirit of the election’. This is an amazing contention for any trustee to make. The chairman said it was not the responsibility of the trustees or election president to stop any malpractice and the candidates should act as vigilantes,” said Wapiz, in a letter to the BPP on September 15. “With bizarre statements such as these, it is clear that you, the trustees, being on your last legs have no intention of holding a poll that is even perceivably fair. We reiterate that the absence of rules of conduct will leave the doors open for poll malpractices. We call upon the trustees to frame rules and circulate them to all candidates,” said the letter. TNN