Parsi woman married outside community allowed to attend family’s last rites
A Parsi trust in Gujarat’s Valsad has decided to allow a 46-year-old Parsi woman married outside the community to attend the last rites of her family members in the Tower of Silence when the need arisesindia Updated: Dec 14, 2017 19:47 IST
A Parsi trust in Gujarat’s Valsad has decided to allow a 46-year-old Parsi woman married outside the community to attend the last rites of her family members in the Tower of Silence when the need arises, the Supreme Court was informed on Thursday.
“We got it straight from the high priest and not the trust members. In deference to this court’s suggestion (asking the trustees to reconsider the ban), which was made for a community that is diminishing, the high priest has agreed to let the petitioner attend all death ceremonies and also offer prayers,” senior advocate Gopal Subramanium told a five-judge constitution bench.
Subramanium said the area where a ceremonial bath is given to the dead bodies will be accessible to them.
The top court was hearing a petition filed by Goolrokh Gupta who 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 man.
She said her marriage was under the Special Marriage Act that gave her the right to practice her own religion and not disown it.
The high court had ruled that once a woman marries a man outside her faith, she loses her belief and right to practice her religion. The high court observed the woman chose to even change her name.
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.
The constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra last week asked Subramanium to speak with members of the Valsad trust and inform it about their decision on December 14.
The bench recorded the senior advocate’s statement and passed an interim order. It, however, said it would hold a detailed hearing on whether such a ban can exist on January 17.
“This meets the present and immediate requirement,” the bench said, praising the high priest and Subramanium’s efforts in resolving the issue.
“With regard to the other rights raised by the petitioner the hearing shall be next year. The rights claimed by the petitioner deserve to be decided in accordance with law,” the court ordered.
Parsis are among the smallest minority groups in India and follow the Zoroastrian faith, an ancient pre-Islamic religion of Iran. Marriages outside the community are not encouraged by conservatives and under traditional laws, lineage passes through fathers but not mothers and children of Parsi women who marry non-Parsis are not considered Parsis.