On the 27th March, 2023, 100 voter members of the Irani Zoroastrian Anjuman (IZA) assembled at the Banaji Atash Behram Hall at Charni Road for a Special Voter’s Meeting which was held for the purpose of making members aware of the details regarding the proposed sale of the 963 acres of land held by the IZA in Palghar, and to clarify any doubts and queries regarding the same.
The call for the meeting was prompted by the Special Voters’ Meeting Requisition letter which was received by trustees of the IZA on 2nd January, 2023, along with signatures of 70 voter members. The said letter had been presented by Benafshay Mehrwan Irani, Ardeshir Faramroze Irani and Cyrus Behram Irani. The same was prompted by the advertisement that appeared in the Economic Times dated 24th November, 2022 regarding the proposed sale of this land. The misconceptions that were presented in this letter to the voter members needed to be clarified.
Clerical assistance for the meeting and voting process was provided by the BPP and the entire proceedings were video recorded. Khodadad Pirojsha Irani initiated the meeting by wishing all present good tidings for Navroz. He spoke about the purpose for calling for the meeting, wherein, after all member’s queries were addressed, the matter of whether the 963 Palghar land was to be sold, would be put to a vote.
The primary queries raised were as under… these were addressed and clarified by the legal advisor to IZA, Kalyaniwalla, from Maneksha & Sethna – Advocates and Solicitors:
Query: Are the Irani Zoroastrian Anjuman and the Irani Zoroastrian Anjuman of Bombay the same body?
Clarification: Yes, they are the same body as the registration number with the Charity Commissioner’s office is same for both.
Query: The land in Palghar that was donated by the Late Jamshed Khodaram Irani in 1928 was measuring 2,334 acres. How has it now decreased to 963 acres?
Clarification: Over the years, due to various government actions and other factors, the amount of land held by the Anjuman has steadily decreased. The break up is as follows:
- By an order of Collector dated 20-6-1931, the Anjuman’s land holding was reduced to 2,215 acres as per mutation entry, dated 15th January 1932.
- On the death of donor Jamshed Khodaram Irani, 200 acres were transferred to his legal heir and son, Rustom, in 1933, as directed by the donor in the trust deed. Thus, the land area further reduced to 2,015 acres
- In 1958, Anjuman was required to donate 500 acres under Boodan Movement for distribution to poor people, bringing land parcel down to 1,515 acres.
- After prolonged litigation in Bombay High Court ad Supreme Court of India, the government acquired 449 acres under Agricultural Land Ceiling Act and the area of land was reduced to 1,066 acres.
- On 24th January, 1974, the Thane District Civil Court gave a final judgement and order which allowed sub leases of 108 acres to retain the land in their possession as tenants. Thus, this land is also not saleable and marketable.
Query: If we do not sell the land now, how likely is it that these 963 acres will also be reduced further?
Clarification: While one cannot say anything definitely, the land is under constant threat of encroachment. There could also be pressure from the government who may seek to acquire more of this land. In the past, the public sector ONGC has also shown interest in the land.
Query: What do you intend to do with the proceeds from the sale?
Clarification: The amount raised from the sale will be invested in government approved securities, bonds etc. As a charitable organization we are allowed to use the funds only towards healthcare, education and welfare of the economically challenged members of the community.
Query: Why don’t we provide housing for poor members of the IZA on these lands? Or lease out the land for commercial purposes like industrial ‘galas’?
Clarification: Firstly, the IZA has no corpus to funds to undertake any kind of construction or philanthropic activity. Currently, the only income from this land is a paltry Rs. 9 lakhs from the sale of grass that grows here. We do not even have funds to build a boundary wall around the land. In fact, the sale of this land will generate funds to the tune of close to Rs. 50 cores annually, by way of interest that will be of immense help to the poor and deserving members of the community. Being a charitable organization, the IZA cannot indulge in any commercial activity.
Query: Can we not just sell part of the land and retain the rest?
Clarification: Part of the land may be sold, but it is not advisable as you would still be leaving the remaining parcel at risk of encroachment etc.
Query: What process will be followed for sale of the land?
Clarification: The IZA has appointed Knight Frank India Pvt Ltd to organize the sale of the land. The firm will vet the interested prospective buyers and only those who meet their criteria will be then allowed to participate in an auction for the land. The land will be sold to the highest bidder.
Query: Who will bear the brokerage fee of Knight Frank India Pvt. Ltd., and other costs incurred for sale of the land?
Clarification: The IZA has made it clear to Knight Frank India Pvt Ltd that any allied costs by way of government fees, dues to Charity Commissioner’s office or their brokerage dues will be borne by the buyer and not by the IZA.
Once all the queries had been addressed to the satisfaction of all members, the matter was put to a vote. The impartial team of clerks from the BPP handled the voting process and the final count showed that a majority of members, 84 to be exact, were in favour of sale of the land, while only 10 were not in favour, and 7 votes were declared to be invalid.