Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Supreme Court of India to examine Parsi woman’s right of religious identity

The Supreme Court today agreed to examine a contentious issue whether a Parsi woman can be deprived of her religious identity, acquired by the virtue of her birth, after marrying a man of different religion.


The apex court was dealing with an appeal challenging the Gujarat High Court’s March 2012 verdict in which it was held that a born Parsi woman, by contracting civil marriage with a non Parsi under the Special Marriage Act, would cease to be a Parsi.

It was also held that she would be deemed to have acquired the religious status of her husband unless a declaration is made by a court for continuation of her Parsi status.

A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra observed that the issue actually dealt with the aspect of “religious identity” of a woman.

“We are actually dealing with identity… Presently it is about religious identity, as before marriage, you are a Parsi and you say after marrying a Hindu man, I cannot be deprived of my identity by virtue of birth and my identity by religion,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar, said.

“There has to be a broader canvass of understanding,” the bench observed and fixed the matter for hearing in the first week of August.

The counsel appearing for the petitioner said the issue which required consideration was whether a woman, after her marriage, is deemed to have acquired the religion of her husband.

The petitioner, a born Parsi woman, had approached the high court contending that even after her marriage with a Hindu man, she has continued to follow Zoroastrian religion and thus she has the right to enjoy all privileges under the Parsi religion, including right to offer prayers at Agiari, a Parsi temple having the ‘holy fire’ and the ‘tower of silence’.

She has contended that her rights as a Parsi Zoroastrian cannot be denied on the ground that she has married a non- Parsi man.

She had also argued that a male Parsi Zoroastrian continues to enjoy all rights, as available to born Parsi, even if he is married to a non-Parsi Zoroastrian woman.