Ban on Priests – clarifications on consequences of settlement
Clarification with regard to consequences of
the Settlement of 17th February 2015 in the Ban on Priests Case
On 27th April 2015, the Hon’ble Supreme Court approved the Settlement arrived at in February 2015 between Messrs. Kanga and Khusrokhan and the BPP Trustees. The following is the factual position on the above subject. This clarification is being issued in order to remove all doubts and misunderstandings on the subject both for the benefit of our priests and families who wish to avail of their services for prayers to be offered at Doongerwadi.
Under the Deed of Trust of 1884, the Trustees of Bombay Parsi Punchayet cannot hereafter prevent any duly ordained Parsi / Irani Zoroastrian Priest from performing Zoroastrian religious rites and ceremonies in the premises of the Towers of Silence.
This is now the law of the land and will hold good for all time to come. No priest can henceforth be subjected to a ban by BPP Trustees, present or future.
The Trustees of BPP hereafter have the right to exclude a priest from praying at Doongerwadi, solely in the following 2 circumstances:
If a priest, within the Doongerwadi property, does any act contrary to religion or misconducts himself.
A priest who is charge-sheeted or convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude will not be allowed to conduct prayers at Doongerwadi (or at the two Agiaries managed by BPP), unless such charge-sheet is dismissed or conviction set aside.
All Parsi Irani Zoroastrian, being beneficiaries of the Trust Deed of 1884, can utilise the services of any duly-ordained Parsi Irani Zoroastrian priest and the Trustees are bound to permit such priest to offer the traditional prayers for the deceased at Doongerwadi.
The above 2 clauses mean that all priests can now perform obsequies at Doongerwadi, as well as at other places (for those who choose to be consigned through alternate methods of disposal), without fear of a reprisal from BPP Trustees, present or future.
The settlement expressly clarifies that issues of (a) conversion, (b) how a duly ordained Parsi-Zoroastrian Priest ceases to be a priest, and (c) the powers, duties and rights of the High Priests did not arise in the court proceedings and therefore the settlement does not deal with these issues. The Trustees have stated that they are not claiming the power to decide that a duly-ordained Parsi-Zoroastrian Priest ceases to be a Priest.
In respect of the concerns expressed regarding the alleged discrimination against Er. Framroze Mirza and Er. Khushroo Madon:
Er. Framroze Mirza in an affidavit filed on 2nd March 2010 in the Bombay High Court has stated on oath that he has no intention of defying the ban and has no desire to ever pray at Doongerwadi. He has also publicly stated this in subsequent interviews in the press.
In spite of considerable efforts, the majority of the BPP Trustees were insistent that they would allow Er. Khushroo Madon to pray at Doongerwadi only for members of his immediate family. Had Messrs. Kanga & Khusrokhan not made this concession the mediation would have collapsed without a settlement being reached.
M/s Kanga & Khusrokhan agree that this is unfortunate, but they had to make the difficult call that (a) the benefits from the settlement for all priests, for all time to come, outweigh the benefit to a single individual, (b) it was also important to put a stop to the use of the communities’ funds, which the Trustees would have continued to spend, if the matter went back to the Supreme Court.
Looking at it positively, no mobed, including Er. Madon’s sons, will ever have to undergo any bans from the Punchayet henceforth.
Issued in Public Interest by:
Dinshaw K. Tamboly, Darius J. Khambata, Edul P. Bharucha,
Dr. Rustom Soonawala, Byram Jeejeebhoy, Fali P. Sarkari
Berjis M. Desai, Minoo R. Shroff, Maneck H. Engineer, Keki M. Elavia,
Karl F. Tamboly, Jamshed B. Jeejeebhoy