Irani trust’s land sale kicks off row

Anjuman Asks Its Chief, Who Had Opposed The 963-Acre Deal, To Resign

By Nauzer K Bharucha | TNN

Mumbai: There is growing opposition within the Zoroastrian community against the sale of 963 acres controlled by a community trust in Palghar, about 110 km from Mumbai. The Iranian Zoroastrian Anjuman wants to sell the land to a firm owned by the family of Bhai Thakur, a Vasai-Virar region strongman, who was incarcerated for several years under the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for murder and other offences.

As reported by TOIon March 3, Thakur’s Viva Homes, run by his son Rohan, emerged as the highest bidder with an offer of Rs 75 lakh per acre. The entire deal works out to Rs 732 crore.

However, the impending deal has created a stir in the miniscule Parsi-Irani community. The Anjuman said that its decision to sell the land was based on former Supreme Court judge Sam Variava’s opinion. However, Variava recently clarified that he had not asked the trust to sell the land to Viva.

Aday after the TOIreport, the Anjuman asked its president Mehrwan Irani to resign with “immediate effect” as he had “lost confidence of the members of the working committee”. Irani had strongly opposed the decision of his cotrustees to sell the large tract.

But last week, a section of the community hit back by starting an online campaign to protest the sale. The petition said: “The trust intends to sell the land to Viva Group, which is linked to Bhai Thakur, whose son and brother are directors of the company. If Viva Homes defaults on the payments

or delays them, who is going to file cases to recover the money or the interest component with Bhai Thakur in the picture? Also, by the time the charity commissioner’s permission for sale in favour of Viva Homes is obtained or by the time the litigation starts, most of the present trustees would have retired. Also what happens if the government seeks to acquire the land while the application for sale is pending with the charity commissioner? The trust will not get the money as the matter will go into litigation for 20 years and the land will get encroached in the meantime.”

The petition stated that a developer can make nine townships on that land as minimum land required for a township is 100 acres. “The trust should consider exploring other viable options like entering into joint ventures with developers, educational institutions, hospitals and take reservation in the form of flats, seats and beds respectively, which could be sold or rented to the community or outsiders and will thereby earn the trust more income for generations to come and also retain and preserve the sense of identity and philanthropy.”

K Driver, one of the several who signed the petition, said, “It’s shameful that the trustees who have a fiduciary duty towards the benefactors are trying to defeat the very object of the trust. If they can’t do charity, they should not be misusing such charitable property.”

Meanwhile, in a statement issued to TOI, the Bombay Parsi Punchayat said that it has no interest in the internal working of an independent body of the Iranian Anjuman. “We have not warned, only requested them to sell the land in tranches,” said punchayat chairman Dinshaw Mehta.