– History-Making Hunger Strike Ushers Unanimous Trustees’ Decision –
On October 20th, 2021, the Bombay Parsi Punchayet issued a Press Release announcing the end of the ongoing stalemate between the Trustees, as regards the BPP elections. Trustee Noshir Dadrawala had led a hunger fast, alongside Trustee Kersi Randeria who was also on a solids/food fast in solidarity, calling for the stoppage of the repetitive postponement of BPP Elections and to finalize a date to hold the much-pending and overdue BPP elections. This would be the first time in the history of the 350-plus year old BPP that a hunger strike was held by protesting Trustees.
The BPP Board, which is to originally constitute seven Trustees, has, since a year now, only constituted five members, post the passing of Trustee Zarir Bhathena and the resignation of Chairman Yazdi Desai. Undue powerplay had set in since, with Trustees Armaity Tirandaz, Xerxes Dastur and Viraf Mehta posing as the decision-making majority, and Trustees Noshir Dadrawala and Kersi Randeria being the sidelined minority, in all crucial decisions being made by the apex body of the community – the BPP.
Moreso, as per the BPP’s Scheme of Elections framed by the High Court, all funds and assets owned by the BPP must be governed by a duly elected Board of Seven Trustees and any vacancy on the Board (by death or by resignation) must be filled within a period of ninety days.
Since the two vacancies took place in 2021, with Trustee Bhathena’s death in June and Chairman Desai’s resignation in December – during the pandemic and lockdown, the elections could not be held within the ninety-day stipulation and the Board of five trustees unanimously announced 14th March, 2021 as the date of elections. Here started the saga of election-postponement, which took place repeatedly, for reasons which pointed towards an alleged foul-play by the majority Trustees, who it seemed, were trying to retain their majority-based position of power, that could get disrupted with the coming in of two more trustees.
Frustrated with this constant postponement in elections, and helpless against the will of majority, Trustees Noshir Dadrawala and Kersi Randeria, decided to go on a hunger fast, as a means of non-violent, political protest, starting 18th October, 2021, alongside a couple of others who also fasted as a show of solidarity and support for this cause.
This led to a couple of rounds of discussions between both Trustee factions of the BPP, but finally on 20th October, 2021, with the helpful intervention of Berjis Desai, senior advisor to the BPP Board, a mutual agreement based on a set of consent terms was reached by all five Trustees.
The BPP press statement shared on 20th October, 2021, shared:
“The five sitting trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet unanimously are pleased to inform members of the community that they have amicably and irrevocably Resolved to file their Consent before the Hon’ble High Court, Mumbai.
Considering the fact that the trustees have unanimously arrived at an amicable solution, members of the community are requested to maintain decorum and exercise restraint in their comments on social media and other forums.”
As per the Consent Terms which were mutually agreed upon, all the Trustees have agreed that elections for all 7 Trustees will be held on 27th March, 2022. The Trustees would also be filing a petition to effectively amend the Election Scheme to limit the term of office of a Trustee to five years (from the hitherto seven years per term) and a maximum of two terms during the lifetime of a Trustee, as well as a suitable mechanism to prevent frequent mid-term elections.
In addition, the term of the current five Trustees – Armaity Tirandaz, Noshir Dadrawala, Kersi Randeria, Viraf Mehta and Xerxes Dastur. A final clause also highlights that the elections would, under no circumstance be delayed or extended in any way unless its on account of a government/municipality ordered lockdown.