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Parsis must relook at rights of women married to non-Parsis, says SC

The Supreme Court asked the trustees of Gujarat based Valsad Parsi Panchayat to look for an amicable position allowing women married to non-parsis attend the last rites of her family members in the “Tower of Silence” when the need arises.

india Updated: Dec 08, 2017 08:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Parsis,Valsad Parsi Panchayat,Gujarat
Women of Parsi community greet each other on the occasion of their New Year 'Navroz' in Nagpur, Maharashtra.(PTI File Photo)

The Supreme Court asked the trustees of Gujarat based Valsad Parsi Panchayat to look for an amicable position allowing women married to non-parsis attend the last rites of her family members in the “Tower of Silence” when the need arises.

A constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra told senior counsel Gopal Subramanium to speak with members of the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust and inform it on December 14 about their decision.

“You tell the trustees the rigidity is not always a correct principle of understanding a concept of religion. Lesser rigidity attracts more (people to the religion),” the bench told the lawyer.

Subramanium said he will discuss the matter with the trustees. However, he said there was a need to look at some tenets of Zoroastrianism before the court takes a call on the issue.

SC was hearing a petition filed by a 46-year-old Parsi woman who has challenged the rationale behind the Gujarat high court order that upheld Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust’s decision to bar her from offering prayers at the “Tower of Silence” after she married a Hindu. The petitioner said her marriage was under the Special Marriage Act that gave her the right to practice her own religion and not disown it.

The HC ruled that once a woman marries a man outside her faith, she loses her belief and right to practice her religion. In the case at hand the HC had observed the woman chose to even change her name.

Although the court asked the parties to explore the possibility of a settlement, it did not indicate what would be the status of the HC ruling. When senior counsel Indira Jaising, appearing for the petitioner pointed to the order, the bench said it would look into at an appropriate stage.

The court’s suggestion to sort out the issue was made when a woman lawyer – a Parsi married to a non-Parsi – told the court on a query that such a restriction was not prevalent in Delhi. Some other Parsi women said this was unique to the particular trust in Gujarat.

Earlier, during the day the top court questioned the HC verdict and said a marriage under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) allows both persons to marry and retain their individual identity, including religious belief. “That is the purpose behind the SMA,” the judge said.

First Published: Dec 08, 2017 07:44 IST