The Deed of Trust of the settlement of the Parsi Panchayet Funds and Properties has no provision empowering the trustees to dictate terms in religious matters, the Bombay High Court said on Friday, setting aside the Parsi Panchayet’s decision to ban two Zoroastrian priests from the Tower of Silence at Malabar Hill and two fire temples.
The division bench of justice DY Chandrachud and justice Anoop Mohta ruled that the Panchayet could not prevent a duly ordained Zoroastrian priest from performing religious rites.
The judges noted that implying that the Deed of Trust, executed on September 25, 1884, confers such powers on the trustees would be impermissible. “It is likely to be subject to grave abuse,” the court said. “Conferring upon the trustees such a broad power of exclusion would result in a grave affront to basic human rights and individual dignity.”
The high court said the trustees cannot arrogate powers to themselves “in a mistaken belief that they are custodians of the religion”.
“Our stand has been vindicated,” said Homi Khusrokhan, one of petitioners, who had moved court on behalf of the priests.
The Parsi Panchayet banned priests Framroze Mirza and Khushroo Madon claiming that they were indulging in activities that went against basic tenets of the Zoroastrian faith.
On March 5, 2010, a single judge bench had dismissed the plea saying the matter was beyond the purview of the court because it involved interpreting what was religious and what was not.