Now, every Parsi above 18 can vote to elect trustees
Mumbai: In a landmark judgment, the Bombay high court this week approved a new scheme sanctioning universal adult franchise for the Parsi community, which ends a century-old practice. Now, every Parsi above the age of 18 would now be able to vote to elect seven trustees to the Bombay Parsee Punchayat (BPP).
The 350-year-old Punchayat is the apex body for the Zoroastrian community in the city. There are about 45,000 Parsi-Irani Zoroastrians in Mumbai.
The BPP has a corpus of Rs 85 crore, controls 4,500 community flats and holds land in the city worth crores, including the sprawling Towers of Silence property at Malabar Hill.
“The entire community has accepted that it is time that every adult is given an opportunity to select the trustee and the said power should not be vested only in a limited body as that of Anjuman Committee,’’ said a division bench of justices S Radhakrishnan and Anoop Mohta, adding, “It is in the general interest and in fact, will further the interest of the trust.’’
The judges directed that the process should commence forthwith setting a deadline of six months time—two months for enrolling new members and updating the electoral rolls.
Another four months will be required to complete the election process.
Under the existing scheme sanctioned by the high court in 1910, there are only around 3,000 eligible voters. A Parsi could become a voter only if he donated Rs 25,000 to the Panchayat or was elected through an electoral college to the Anjuman.
In 2006, the community was thrown into turmoil when four trustees of the BPP submitted their resignations. Though the resignations were subsequently withdrawn, it ignited a debate in the community over the issue of elections. The trustees then framed a scheme proposing that every Parsi who had completed 18 years of age should be eligible to vote.
The proposed scheme, also allows a donor member two votes during the election. Further, no trustee can hold the office for his whole life as the new rules restrict the term of a trustee for a total of three terms or 21 years.