Syedna sole administrator of Bohra affairs, said HC in famous Gulla case
Mumbai: The Bombay high court, which is hearing the Syedna succession case, has asked both plaintiff Syedna Taher Fakhruddin and defendant Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin to furnish the case law involved in two prominent cases of the Dawoodi Bohra community that were decided by the HC
Mumbai: The Bombay high court, which is hearing the Syedna succession case, has asked both plaintiff Syedna Taher Fakhruddin and defendant Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin to furnish the case law involved in two prominent cases of the Dawoodi Bohra community that were decided by the HC. One of them was in 1917 and famously known as the gulla (offertory box) case.
The case, filed by former advocate-general Sir Thomas Strangman, pertained to contributions received from Dawoodi Bohras in an offertory box placed outside the tomb of one Seth Chandabhoy Currimbhoy at Bhendi Bazar. Strangman had questioned the absolute authority of Syedna Taher Saifuddin, the 51st Dai, on the utilisation of the offerings, both in cash and kind. The AG had submitted that as the offerings were in the nature of charity, the surplus fund could not be utilised for buying properties.
The 51st Dai, who was the third and main respondent in the case, had deposed before the bench of Justice Barrington Marten that the fund was not charity but contributions by community members, and as he was the head of the community and vested with the powers to administer all moveable and immovable assets in the name of the community, utilisation of the surplus gulla funds could not be questioned.
The case was heard for around four years, as numerous followers of Syedna Saifuddin deposed before the court, stating that they had made contributions to the gulla and hence their leader had the discretion to utilise them whichever way he deemed fit. While some witnesses deposed that Syedna Saifuddin derived his authority from the Prophet via a long chain of Imans and Dais, some of the witnesses went to the extent of calling Syedna Saifuddin God and hence having absolute authority.
The 51st Dai informed the bench that he was administering the affairs of the community by divine inspiration and guidance of the secluded Imam, and in the absence of the Iman “claimed to be the owner and master of all property possessed by any Dawoodi Borah, and to be also the master of their minds, bodies and souls”. He argued that the offerings by devotees could not be treated as charity and hence did not fall under the laws governing charitable contributions.
In light of these submissions and the subsequent withdrawal of the prayer by AG Strangman that the contributions be treated as charity, Justice Marten directed that a trust be formed to utilise the funds deposited in the gulla. As the court had deemed that considering the Syedna God was sacrilege, it upheld the submissions of the Syedna that though he was not in the rank of God or the Prophet, due to his being kul masoom (almost infallible) he was vested with the powers which devolved to him through the Prophet and Imam.
Thereafter, the court in its decree pronounced in 1921 said, “…and this Court doth further declare that the tomb of Seth Chandabhoy Currimbhoy mentioned in the said plaint and the offerings thereat, past, present and future, and the investments made from past offerings, form the subject of a Trust (hereinafter called, ‘The Gulla Trust’) created for public purposes of a charitable and religious nature, and that the sole right of management of the Gulla Trust is vested in the said third defendant, Sardar Saiyedna Taher Saifuddin, and his successors in office.”