Mumbai: Parsi Trust’s Plan To Sell Tardeo Building For ₹5.5 Crore Raises Alarm About Loss Of Community Assets

Mumbai: Parsi Trust’s Plan To Sell Tardeo Building For ₹5.5 Crore Raises Alarm About Loss Of Community Assets

The sale plans have led to allegations that the trust is disposing of properties for a pittance without consulting the community who are beneficiaries of the trust

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Thursday, December 14, 2023, 07:44 PM IST
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Bai Mahal | FPJ

Mumbai: Parsi-Zoroastrians are alarmed by plans by their apex trust to sell a Tardeo building for what they say is an absurdly cheap price.

The Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), one of the largest landowners in Mumbai, has issued notices inviting buyers for Bai Mahal, a four-storeyed building on Wadia Street with around 35 tenements, for Rs five-and-half crores.

The sale plans have led to allegations that the trust is disposing of properties for a pittance without consulting the community who are beneficiaries of the trust. It has been pointed out that a 1500-square-foot apartment costs between Rs 10 and 15 crores in the area, with property prices in the area ranging between 60,000 to 70,000 per square foot.

Khushru Zaiwala, a Bombay High Court advocate who wrote to the BPP complaining about the deal, said that the trust’s actions were a ‘breach of trust and a fraud on charity’. Zaiwala’s letter says: The Parsi community, who are beneficiaries of the BPP, would like to remind you that each of the trustees has come to power on a solemn promise to protect the dedicated properties of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, and it is highly unfortunate that you have now turned to become liquidators of the trust properties.

Like many properties owned by the BPP, the Bai Mahal building was willed to the trust by a former owner who had no heirs. The building covers an area of 497 square meters, with a developable Floor Space Index (FSI) up to 4.5. FSI is the ratio of buildable area compared to the size of the plot. The building is rent-protected, which means that tenants pay a cess to the government to maintain the building. Zaiwala said that if the trust continues to sell its assets at such prices, every charitable trust property vested in BPP will be in jeopardy.

No cash to repair the building: BPP

Viraf Mehta, a BPP trustee, denied that the price quoted was low. “We had a feasibility study. The building is fully tenanted and the land parcel offers limited scope for redevelopment,” said Mehta who added that the BPP did not have cash to repair the dilapidated building.   

Dinshaw Mehta, a former BPP trustee, said that the trust had no option but to sell the building. “We would have liked to develop the building ourselves, but we were told by auditors that as a trust we cannot do business. If we do so we will lose our tax-free status. We have been advised to sell it. We have been forced to do so by our auditors,” said Mehta.

Mehta added that only three or four of the tenants are Parsis. “The price of Rs five-and-half crores is only a base price. We will be happy if we get a better price,” he said.

Deal's details, including price are not transparent, say community members

But community members have said that the details of the deal, including the price, are not transparent.  Zaiwala’s letter says that the community should be given prior information about such deals. He said that the community should be given prior notice about ‘plans to liquidate the property’ so that they put up necessary objections against the liquidation of trust properties of BPP.

BPP trustee Mehta said that they have published the tender for the proposed sale in a newspaper. “Transparency was the whole point of issuing a tender. We will carry it in the Parsi press too,” Mehta said.

However, community members said that the BPP should not sell the building but develop it for Parsi families. Dr Viraf Kapadia, a resident of Godrej Baug, Nepean Sea Road, said that there is a shortage of housing in the community, with many on BPP’s waitlist for flats. “The community is dwindling because youngsters couldn't marry because of the shortage of flats,” said Kapadia.

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