Indian Parsis greet each other at a Fire Temple during Navroze, the Parsi New Year, in Mumbai on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE
Indian Parsis greet each other at a Fire Temple during Navroze, the Parsi New Year, in Mumbai on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE

Observing that it is the duty of the trustees of Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) to cross check who in the community has converted to another faith, the Bombay High Court, on Friday, quashed a decision of the trustees of BPP that disallowed a Parsi woman from contesting the polls to the trust.

A bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Vinay Joshi was seized with a plea filed by Zuleika Homavazir, whose candidature was cancelled by the BPP trustees on the ground that the proposer (who nominated her candidature) had converted to Christianity.

Zuleika, a professor in the city's Wilson College, was nominated to contest the polls by one Rustom Jeejeebhoy. However, her nomination was rejected on the grounds that Rustom had converted to Christianity by giving up the Zoarastrian faith.

Appearing for BPP, advocate Somasekhar Sundaresean pointed out that Zuleika failed to get an affidavit duly sworn by Rustom stating that he hasn't embraced Christianity.

Per contra, Zuleika argued that since Rustom's name continues to appear on the general and donor members list of BPP, it was for the trust to cross check if he has given up the Parsi faith.

Accepting the arguments, Justice Kathawalla said, "It is pertinent to note that the trustees, who have provided the nomination form to the candidates, only require the said proposer to make a declaration that they are the members of the Anjuman Committee consisting of general or donor members and they assure the trustees that the candidate is a Parsi and follows the Zoroastrian religion and s/he has completed 30 years."

"However, no declaration is sought from the proposer in similar terms that they continue to be Parsis who follow the Zoroastrian faith. Zuleika, therefore, scrupulously followed the election guidelines issued by the trustees of BPP with regard to her nomination form," the bench noted.

The judges emphasised on the fact that there is no provision in the laws governing BPP, which mandates a candidate to satisfy the trustees that his or her proposer is a Parsi.

"We would like to emphasise that it is nowhere provided that it is the candidate who has to convince the trustees that his or her proposer, whose names appears on the registers maintained by the trustees of BPP, is a Parsi following the Zoroastrian faith," the judges said.

"The duty lies at the door of the trustees to inquire into such allegations and take action of striking off the name of such Parsi from its registers by following the due procedure, which is not followed in the instant case," the bench held.

The judges further said, since Rustom's name continues to appear on the general Register and is not struck off, "Zuleika was fully justified in submitting her nomination form proposed by him and the Trustees have incorrectly rejected the same."

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