‘A Costly Consent’ Indeed!

The community has paid an unfair price for the unnecessary political shenanigans related to the BPP Elections, for the seat of two Trustees, which were to be held earlier this month. Apart from a colossal waste of time, effort and finances on legal proceedings, the postponement of the elections to the 23rd of May has achieved nothing, apart from, perhaps, assuaging Boardroom egos and power-play.

Parsi Times has repeatedly voiced the futility of such unnecessary and disappointing displays of our community’s disunited and therefore, deficient leadership, which continues to be held at ransom by external and equally unnecessary interferences.

The recent editorial titled ‘A Costly Consent’, published in the community’s foremost magazine – Parsiana – by our much-respected friend and colleague, Jehangir Patel, hits the nail on the head, brilliantly summing up the BPP election brouhaha. An exceptional journalist and Editor-in-Chief, known for voicing his honest, upright and unbiased opinions on community matters, Jehangir Patel was present in the court where the legal proceedings unfolded and has shared precise details and the perfect analysis in his editorial. With his kind consent, Parsi Times is reproducing the editorial, for the benefit of our readers…

A Costly Consent

The tussle over the postponement of the March 14, 2021 Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) trusteeship election would qualify among the most tragic, wasteful and meaningless utilization of scarce community and judicial resources. The 10-week rescheduling to May 23 served nobody’s purpose. Not only was former BPP Chairman Dinshaw Mehta unable to achieve his goal of controlling a majority on the truncated BPP board till October 2022, but he also unwittingly nullified the candidature of his friend and ally, lawyer Berjis Desai (for now Desai says he will not contest the May election).

The perceptive Bombay High Court (BHC) division bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Vinay Joshi, aware of the underlying currents, wisely gave short shrift to Mehta’s power play. Now, in the sweltering heat of a Bombay summer, voters will have to queue up at five centers to cast their ballots.

The judges refused to give the BPP lawyer an extra working day to decide on the fresh date. Instead, they made the two warring factions of trustees, their candidates and the lawyers sit in a corner of the courtroom under the Justices’ watchful eyes and work out a new schedule of dates. The judges even advised the lawyers to make Mehta and his bête noire BPP trustee Kersi Randeria sit facing opposite directions to minimize the possibility of any fisticuffs as occurred a few years back in the Ballard Estate magistrate’s court complex! The arch enemies however sat face to face with many others around and behaved with restraint.

With Desai forced to choose between siding with the petitioners (BPP trustees Randeria, Noshir Dadrawala who proposed Desai’s candidature, aspirants Anahita Desai, a front runner, and Kaikhushroo Irani) against the postponement or with the Mehta controlled trustees Armaity Tirandaz, Viraf Mehta and Xerxes Dastur favoring rescheduling, he opted to remain neutral. But his proposer and others saw Berjis’s refusal to cooperate as a betrayal and may withdraw their support. Which means Berjis would no longer be elected by consensus. Rather than have his effectiveness on the board pared and participate in a bitter election campaign and its inevitable aftermath, he has withdrawn his candidature for the May 23 election for the present.

With Berjis out of the fray, Dinshaw’s ill-conceived subterfuge could now possibly result in two candidates being elected from his opponents’ camp. Anahita is probably unbeatable but the other seat as of now is up for grabs. There is a possibility that Hoshang Jal, honorary secretary of the Cusrow Baug United Sports and Welfare League will contest from the Randeria camp, should Berjis not reconsider. Jal gained much goodwill from his handling of the Covid crisis in the colony and is a strong contender. He was present in Court during the March 12 hearing.

From Dinshaw’s camp two possible contenders are community activists Phiroze Amroliwalla and Zeree Jehangirji, a one-time Randeria ally in the Alert Zoroastrians Association. Another name being bandied about is that of Adil Malia, a human resources professional. Others may also throw their hat in the ring but without the backing of one of the two kingmakers, their chances of success are limited. A candidate needs a strong support network, a history of working for the community and an organization that can get the voters to the polling booths on election day.

The human and financial costs incurred due to the postponement is enormous. Anahita’s ally Karyesh Patel mentioned in an app, “Many have cancelled their holiday plans, some took their weekly off just to come and vote, some booked tickets back from their holidays just to be in time for the election…” The costs incurred for the election preparations are estimated at Rs 10 lakh by one trustee; the legal costs for all parties will easily be another 10 lakhs, even if some lawyers appear pro bono. Though the main lawyers were all Parsis and therefore familiar with the community and its countless legal shenanigans, they still had to do considerable homework in a very limited time. Dinshaw’s camp announced the postponement on Tuesday evening, five days before the election, citing the rise in Covid cases in the city and the dangers it posed to an aging community. Two days later, all three parties (the BPP, the two dissenting trustees and two candidates) were before BHC Justice A. K. Menon who agreed to the postponement. The next afternoon they were before the division bench.


Kathawalla is familiar with the intricacies of the BPP having worked there in his youth, subsequently appearing for them as a lawyer in several matters and finally adjudicating on several cases pertaining to the trust. It did not take him long to decipher the mischievous intent behind the postponement and to take the BPP lawyers to task for attempting to bypass the legal process and delay the election.

BHC Justice B. Colabawalla had instructed the BPP in September 2020 to hold the elections within six months. At the penultimate hour, with the election preparations being incomplete and voters not being aware of the status, the justices agreed to reschedule the polling and begin the process anew.

Dr Zuleika Homavazir who had been denied permission to contest because her proposer was allegedly a Parsi Christian was permitted by Kathawalla and Joshi to stand for election. Now she can find a new proposer. Kathawalla also suggested an amendment to the Election Scheme where the form signed by the proposer and seconder states they are Parsis following the Zoroastrian faith.

The postponement is a Pyrrhic victory for the majority trustees who rubber stamp Dinshaw’s diktats. To an extent party loyalties always hold sway but at some juncture one hopes even loyalists will weigh the pros and cons of an issue before signing on the dotted line. Sadly the two most important institutions in the community, The Federation of the Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India (FPZAI) and the BPP function like rubber stamps. The FPZAI’s kowtowing is more distressing as the anjumans are autonomous bodies and not beholden to any trustee of the BPP. They can afford to be independent but choose not to be.

The only real check on those in positions of power is an alert and active citizenry. But the lay Parsis, like most others, are indifferent or unconcerned or approve of the status quo. As a result the community will have to put up with bungling individuals and institutions, with courts of law deciding on issues. Parsis have no one to blame for the state of affairs other than themselves.


About By Jehangir Patel, Editor-in-Chief, Parsiana

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