HC upholds liberal view in Parsi community

The trustees of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) cannot arrogate powers to themselves in a mistaken belief that they are custodians of religion, the Bombay High Court today ruled while lifting a ban imposed by the Panchayat on two Parsi Zoroastrian priests barring them from performing religious rites and ceremonies.

In a face-off between the orthodox and liberal Parsi Zoroastrians, former municipal commissioner Jamsheed Kanga and Homi Khushrokhan had contested the ban imposed by BPP under the Deed of Trust of 1884 on priests Framroze Mirza and Khushroo Madon in June 2009 for performing "ceremonies that did not have sanction of the religion."

"The court has carefully gone through the Deed of Trust and we do not find any provision that empowers the trustees to prevent a duly ordained Zoroastrian priest from performing religious rites and ceremonies in the Tower of Silence and Agiaries as far as it is for Parsi members," a division bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A V Mohta have observed.

The court further remarked that if such an arbitrary power is given, then it is likely to be subjected to grave abuse. "The court cannot be a party to encourage religious obscurantism," it said.

The BPP had banned the priests from the towers of silence and fire temples at Godavara Agiary and Godrej Baug Agiary in south Mumbai on the grounds that they prayed for the dead who were cremated and performed Zoroastrian rituals of a Parsi who had married a non-Parsi.

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