Ban on priests will lead to talibanisation of Parsi Panchayet, HC told

Eminent members of the Parsi community, opposing a ban imposed by the Bombay Parsi Panchayet on two priests barring them from performing religious ceremonies, have told the Bombay High Court that this would lead to the “talibanisation” of the 60,000-member Panchayet of the Parsi Zoroastrian community in Mumbai.

By Mayura Janwalkar / Indian Express

In an ongoing face-off between the orthodox and liberal Parsi Zoroastrians, former municipal commissioner Jamsheed Kanga and Homi Khushrokhan had contested the ban imposed by the Bombay Parsi Panchayet (BPP) on priests Framroze Mirza and Khushroo Madon in June 2006 for allegedly performing unreligious ceremonies. In January 2010, a single judge of the Bombay High Court had refused to stay the ban.

The BPP banned the priests from Doongerwadi and fire temples at Godavara Agiary in Fort and the Godrej Baug Agiary at Malabar Hill, on the grounds that they prayed for the dead who were cremated; performed Navjote ceremonies of children of Parsi mothers and non-Parsi fathers and performed Zoroastrian rituals of a Parsi marrying a non-Parsi. The decision of the single judge is now being contested before a Division Bench of the HC.

An intervention application was later filed by several prominent Parsis, including legal luminary Tehmtan Andhyarujina, Dilnavaz Variava, wife of Justice Sam Variava, Dr Rustom Soonawalla, Anu Aga and Dr Keki Grant from Pune.

Representing the intervenors, senior counsel E P Bharucha told the court last Friday that reciting the prayers for Parsi Zoroastrians wanting to be cremated cannot be termed unreligious by the BPP as after the extinction of vultures at the Towers of Silence in Doongerwadi “corpses take many months to decompose and lie rotting in the Dokhmas. As a result, many Parsi Zoroastrians are opting for alternative methods of disposal. “If I die in the month of July I would not want my body to be lying in the rain to rot. I would want it to be cremated,� Bharucha said.

Bharucha also submitted, “the fear (of the BPP) is racial and not religious. He cited a HC judgment of the early 1900s where the court had held that conversions in the religion should not be permitted as it would lead to the invasion of all pauper sweepers and dubras of Gujarat who would be attracted to the Trusts funds.

The intervenors submitted that the judgment has to be seen “in the context of this time. They contended that the BPP is seeking to implement “this racist agenda� by preventing the Navjote of children born of non-Parsi Zoroastrian fathers even if they do not claim any facility provided by the BPP.

The intervenors also cited the examples of industrialist Naville Wadia, born to Christian parents, whose navjote was performed by four high priests when he was 80 and also the navjote of JRD Tata’s French mother Suzanna. By not taking any action against these priests, the intervenors contended, the BPP is “conveying that a different course of action is always permissible for the rich and the powerful as opposed to the common Parsi Zoroastrian.

Arguing for the BPP, senior counsel R A Dada had argued before the Single Bench that religious issues cannot be dealt with by a civil court. He had denied that the BPP was just performing an administrative function. According to the Trust deed, the BPP also has a role to play in the religious functioning, he said.

The next hearing is scheduled for Friday, March 11.

  • Barak Aga

    Mr. R. A. Dada, states that “religious issues cannot be dealt with by a civil court.

    The Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid issue was argued in court, and was subject of a court ruling.

    If courts cannot deal with religious issues then the same would also impinge on marriage laws.

    Divorce hearings would have to be held before priests instead of judges.

    Judges would be unable to hear matrimonial cases pertaining to Parsis, Christians and Mohmeddans as these communities have their own marriage laws.

  • Siloo Kapadia

    BUT the BPP is already a form of the Taiban. They are beyond reason and common sense. In many ways they are worse than the Taliban in that the Taliban welcome everyone that wants to join.

    Who are the BPP to take it onto themselves to say who can enter the religion and who cannot? And how dare they attempt to ban priests due to their own Nazi-like racia bigotry.
    Deekras, this whole charade of pretending to be “special” and “racially pure” and “wholly Aryan” is ending. The community as it is is fizzling out. This is Ahura Mazda himself showing us his displeasure with these policies. Take heart, for the more liberal Parsees are here to succeed and take over the realm!

  • Rathestar.

    Siloo has a point.
    B.P.P. got bigoted the day in 2008 when sub standard persons got ‘elected’ and the credit for the same should go to those who clamoured for Adult Franchise.In fact banning of the Priests is a consequence of BPP being talibanised and further degeneration is in store when Parsee Zoroastrian ladies will be prevented from participating in religious functions on grounds of being married to a person professing another Religion.

  • farzana

    Just heard, Mumbai High court has given the judgement in favor of the banned priests calling the ban ‘illegal’ …WAPIZ BITES THE DUST 🙂

  • Zarathustra Zarthosti

    The judgment was passed today and with the blessing of Dadar Ahura Mazda I am please to inform all that we have won the case. Both the priests or any priest cannot be ban by anyone in the entire world. The BPP and its trustees have no power or authority to ban any one for the same.


  • Contradhongi.

    Now all those Priests who were scared to come out openly will shed their misgivings and fear. Those who moved this resolution in B.P.P. should be made to pay the Legal Charges incurred by the Trust from their individual pockets. If they dont, we should approach Charity Commissioner to declare them as misfits to manage Trust affairs. AFTER ALL THEY WASTED MONEY BELONGING TO THE NEEDY OF THE COMMUNITY.

  • Barak Aga

    “Contradhongi” made a fine point.

    Did the BPP do its homework before embarking on this misadventure?

    Did it have the authority to meddle in religious matters?

    If the BPP are the guardians of the Zoroastrian faith, what is the role of the “High Priests”?

    Who are the custodians of the faith, the BPP Trustees or Priests?

    The Trustees responsible for this gaffe must be made to compensate the Trust fund.

  • Contradhongi.

    Dear Barak,
    Extension of my question is : Whether the Trustees , during to two year tenure even read the Trust Deed cursorily. Is it not incumbent upon them to read its contents before exercising powers flowing there from? In any corporate body, they would have been subjected to disciplinary proceedings for dereliction / gross negligence in discharge of their duties. This is a public charity Trust any Parsee can seek their disqualification and even impeachment by approaching the Charity Commissioner. Assuming they (Trustees) were not Legal experts and (nobody expects them to be) why they did not seek legal opinion before passing their scatterbrained Resolution?. Absence of a legal professional as a Trustee is felt acutely. The Board is filled with far too many carpenters and cooks and of course how can we ignore the presence of Rubber stamp cum Social worker (!) who got elected on sympathy factor upon demise of her husband.? Thus comes the stark fact that the Board does not have a single professional in any sphere be it Law, Accountancy or Medicine. Gone are the days of men of stature like Maneck Mistry, Banaji, P.C. Hansotia, S.R. Vakil Dr. Gorwalla etc who occupied the august chairs of Trustees. The Officials ( supposedly bureaucrats) of the BPP Trust Office too have limited credentials to boast of as a couple of them got flats in suburban colonies without payment.
    Now just imagine the scenario if AFP Candidates had got elected. These very fundamentalists would have made life of such professionals miserable by creating hurdles. The same Dastur K.N. Dastur had written several articles against the allotment of Flats on Refundable non interest bearing deposits charging the then Trustees as robbing poor Pauls and depriving the poor of accommodation in Wadia Baugs meant for poor to benefit the prosperous Peters. WHY IS HE NOW SILENT ON THIS TOPIC DESPITE HIS FAVOURITE WORKING IN A LOGISTICS COMPANY GETTING ELECTED? How can such a person expect respect as a Meherjirana whose pious ancestors are revered even now? The conclusion is that in view of his present silence, his earlier write ups were hypocritical.
    As for the frittering away Trust income on utterly wasteful litigation, I too am of the opinion that Trustees are jointly and severally Liable to the community and the Trust (Parsee Community) is entiltrle to recover this loss from them individually. It would have been a different proposition if they had incurred legal charges in defending an issue like property and estate but defending a Fatwa issued out of caprice and whims is totally different. . They should be made to realize that jingoism at the cost of Charity funds is not a paying proposition.

  • Ksvjnr

    All the fighting and politics will lead us no where. If we dont wake up now there will be no need to do so later, as all will be lost. People need to follow only one path- good thoughts, good words and good deeds. If the BPP feels the way it does on inter marriages they are right in the sense they want to protect hard earned funds of charity from others who are not of zoroastrain origin. Which can be put in as a clause each time one fills in an application for monetary help. But at the same time our religion has spoken of equality between men and women? That should be a seperate debate based on our scriptures only.