Aslaji Agiary Trustees in a Legal Battle

Grant Rd agiary caught between two sets of trustees

Aslaji Bhikhaji Agiary’s trustees are embroiled in a legal battle over control of the temple management and funds

One of the most frequented Parsi agiaries in the city is embroiled in a conflict among its trustees over control of the temple management and funds.

Aslaji Bhikhaji Agiary, which was consecrated on September 7, 1865, is located near Congress House in a lane off Grant Road Station, has an estimated income of over Rs1 crore per year.

The agiary is dedicated to Mithra, and the city’s Parsi community swears by its power to mitigate their problems and fulfil their wishes. However, two sets of agiary’s trustees are fighting over its management before the Bombay City Civil Court.

The litigation has been going around in the courts, the Charity Commissioner’s Office
(CCO) to the Bombay High Court and back to the CCO, from where it has been sent to the civil court.

City judge KP Joshi has an application filed by trustee Erach Master and three trustees, Cyrus Malesar, Adil Shroff and Rusi Kelawala, appointed by him. The CCO had rejected their appointment against the Charity Commissioner, who appointed three new trustees — Katy Baam (ex-Justice of the Bombay High Court), Burjorji Ant

ia (solicitor) and one Hoshang Mehta — on March 27, 2008.

The application has asked the city court to restrain Baam, Antia and Mehta from acting as trustees until the court decides on which set of trustees is legally in charge and entitled to manage the trust properties.

The civil court litigation stems from the CCO rejecting the co-option of Malesar, Shroff and Kelawala on the Agiary Trust Board (ATB) on October 14, 2005, by Master who allegedly posed as the sole remaining trustee.

Master explained his sole trustee position to the CCO saying that of the five original trustees one died (Vakil) and two resigned- Engineer and Mehlii Menesse. In 2001, Master and one Gustad Patel were the remaining trustees according to Master. After Patel also resigned on February 21, 2004 and his resignation was accepted by CCO, Master claimed that he alone remained on the ATB.

CCO held that Mehlii Menesse, one of the original trustees and a member of the Settlor’s family, had not resigned May 12, 1998, as alleged by Master. There were two trustees on board in 2004. CCO’s order stated that the appointment of Malesar, Shroff and Kelawala was made without following due procedure, and was therefore illegal.

Original article here.

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  • Rohinton Patel

    I am realy happy to see the so called parsees fighting among tehmselves but at the same time i am so unhappy that the so called people of my own comunity is fighting against the same fire which brought us some thousands of years ago to the beautiful soil of India & made us free to practise our own religion.
    Its the biggest shame in the history of the whole world that the same people from the same religion are fighting just fro the sake of gainig control of the Fire which brought us to india so that the people of Iranshah can live in peace,but i am realy at pains to see that happening.
    Secondly we parsees are to be blamed for it has been observed that some parsees are openly taking the sides of Pakistan,its here that i want to remaind the parsees the promises given to hindu raja by our most noble person naryosang dhaval.
    Hope that god gives some sense to all the stupid parsses to see the writings on the walls before its too late that even god will not be able to save the so called stupid parsees.
    Rohinton Patel(Muscat).

  • Anti Dhongidox

    What this holy place needs is 2 to 3 sincere trustees who can devote time to look after the affairs of this Agiary. High profile names who can not contibute in terms of time due to their busy schedules are NOT suitable.Such persons should not be susceptible to flattery of the vested interests.
    Firstly, the Trustees need to provide Oil for Divaas as well as “Kakras” and then the income generated from Divaas should go to the Trust and not in the pocket of Panthaky.A sealed Box for putting money for the Divaas may be placed near the table for Divaas.
    Secondly the quaters are provided for the stay of the Panthaky but the present Panthaky often leaves the premises at night and is not residing in the said quarters.If the Panthaky is not interested in overnight stay in the Agiary then the quaters can be used for extending the Agiary premises.
    It should be the endeavour of the Community to prevent overzealous vested interests from usurping Trusteeship with motives other than serving the Holy Fire and the Community at large.

  • Religious but Rational.

    The Trustees of this Agiari seem to be too preoccupied to retain the Trusteeship rather than devoting their time to upkeep of the Religious place.

    During the Muktad days, the devotees are not allowed to enter Fire Temple after 7.30 p.m and those already offering prayers are asked to leave before 7.30 p.m. I experienced this last year.Worse irreligious practice is to prepone the Aivisruthrem Boi by half an hour. Apparently, the sun will set early by half and hour for those 10 days! The wife of the Panthaky is a law unto herself and Trustees seem to have no voice in restaining her in such irreligious practices.

  • phiroz

    One can understand that Mobeds have to wake up next morning during Muktad days, early. But to refuse entry into precincts after 7.30 p.m. by shutting the gate and compelling devotees to quit at 7.30 is a bit too much.Any wonder people are critical of Athornans?
    I concede that Trustees of this Fire Temple like those of other Fire Temples are only paper Trustees who have no courage to discipline the Panthaky or his family member.In this case, the female referred to and not the Panthaky ‘manages’ the Fire Temple.The Trustees are more interested in being flattered by her than in serving the Fire Temple leave alone the spiritual needs of the Community.

  • Religious but Rational.

    The Notice pasted in the premises of the Agiary that during Muktad days, Agiari will close its doors at 7.30 p.m. does not bear the Signature of any Trustee. This amply demonstrates the extent of the “authority!’ they wield.
    Further,devotees are ‘requested’ not to touch the Muktad Tables. In this regard one simple question. Who sweeps the floor in the main Hall. Is it not a Chasniwalla who will sweep and clean the floor on which tables will stand? If a chasniwalla touches the Muktad Table (while sweeping) it is O.K. Chasniwalla is ‘Chokkha” but not a full fledged Parsi touching vase of his near and dear one. By the way, during Muktads,do not most Agiaries ‘import’Lalias or half Pareees from Villages in Gujarat. Most of them can not even recite Yatha Vairyo or Ashem Vohu.This is Parsi style double standards unlimited.