The FPZAI will intervene in the Calcutta case


July 31, 2017

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An Originating Summons has been filed in the High Court at Calcutta by one Prochy N. Mehta and her daughter, Sanaya Mehta Vyas. Sanaya is married to a non-Parsee.

Report by H. M. Mistry | PARSEE VOICE


They are seeking directions from the High Court on whether Sanaya’s two children – one son and one daughter, whose ‘Navjote’ has been performed,

i) are “members of the Parsi community professing Zoroastrian faith”,

ii) whether these children have a right to worship and perform religious rites and ceremonies at the Mehta Anjuman Atash Adaran. and

iii) whether the provisions of the Trust Deed of 1915 of the Adaran prevents the children of Parsi women married to a non-Parsi, from performing worship and religious rites at the Adaran, since their so-called Navjote is performed.

Since the matter has serious ramifications on the identity of the Parsee community and its future existence, a special meeting of the Executive Council of the FPZAI was convened on 30th July 2017 to decide on whether the FPZAI should become intervenors in this matter in the High Court at Calcutta. BPP Chairman Yazdi Desai, who is also the President of the FPZAI, ensured that the requisite quorum was present to conduct the meeting.

BPP trustee, Mr. Viraf Mehta inquired where the funds to pursue this litigation would come from. Desai informed him that the money from the sale of property in Dharwar would be used for this purpose. To a further query from Mehta whether such funds could be used for this purpose, Desai read out the relevant portions from the FPZAI bye-laws which permitted such use. Commodore Medioma Bhada emphasised the importance of pursuing this litigation as it had serious ramifications on the future existence of our community. The funds could be arranged.

Pervez Irani of the Iranian Anjuman inquired about the stand of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet in this matter and whether all trustees supported this move. Chairman Desai responded that it was not the BPP which was intervening but the FPZAI was. Further, three of the BPP trustees viz. himself, Armaity Tirandaz and Viraf Mehta were supporting the resolution proposed to be passed and with him as Chairman, having the casting vote, the majority decision would prevail.

Irani further inquired whether this was the right time to intervene or whether it made sense for the FPZAI to wait for the decision of the High Court and then challenge that decision in a higher forum. Maneck Kalyaniwalla of Mulla & Mulla, the legal counsel for the FPZAI, informed those present that all Agiary trust deeds were prepared on virtually similar grounds. The trust deed of the Kolkata Agiary also provided for the whole Parsee Zoroastrian community to be beneficiaries of the Agiary and not just Parsees residing in Kolkata. The law protected those who were vigilant and rushed to the court for immediate assistance. Hence, this was the correct point in time to intervene in the matter.

Kalyaniwalla then delivered a message from Russi Jeejeebhoy, East Zone Vice President, who was unable to attend, that he was distressed at the idea of FPZAI intervening and requested that it was necessary to find a via media through dialogue.

Kalyaniwalla informed those present that the matter involved an interpretation of the trust deed and whatever decision was taken by the court, would be binding on all the agiary trusts in India and the community as a whole. On a query from Adil Nargolwala of Delhi Anjuman, Kalyaniwalla explained what an originating summons was and how any beneficiary could seek an interpretation of a document from the court. Since the whole Parsee Zoroastrian community was a beneficiary of the Kolkata Adaran trust, any Parsee could approach the court or intervene in the matter. The Judge would hear all parties who proved they had a right to intervene and how that right was being infringed.

Chairman Desai stated that what the applicants had asked the court to opine on would affect the whole community. He expressed dismay that on the one hand, the Government of India was fully supporting the increase in numbers of the Parsees as they valued the race and on the other hand, efforts were being made in certain quarters to dilute that very race.

Desai then requested the members to vote on the resolution authorising the FPZAI to make appropriate application to the Calcutta High Court to intervene in the Originating Summons No.1 of 2017. The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority of 14 votes in favour, with no votes against it. Two members abstained.

Cmdr. Bhada averred that even if a dialogue was held with the applicants, no fruitful outcome would result as the matter had serious ramifications for the community’s survival at large and FPZAI’s intervention was a must. Nargolwalla stated that the funds for the litigation should be provided by those Anjumans which supported the intervention and not taken from the FPZAI coffers. It was mentioned that if need arose, various Anjumans would be approached for funds. But it was too important a matter to let the issue of funding derail it.

The meeting terminated with a sumptuous lunch for the attendees.