Friday final BPP hearing?



The next and possibly final Bombay High Court hearing on adopting amendments to the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) trusteeship scheme is scheduled for Friday, February 25 at 4.30 p.m. Following a three-hour 15-minute hearing on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, Justices Sharukh Kathawalla and Milind Jadhav directed both factions of the trustees and their lawyers to be present in Court and approve the final version of the scheme then and there. The late afternoon hour was decided on as BPP trustee Viraf Mehta said he had to be present in his office during the day. A schedule for the elections would be announced thereafter.

    Minor tweaks were made to the amendments at the hearing today. The security deposit for a candidate was set at Rs 20,000 instead of Rs 25,000 after former BPP chairman Dinshaw Mehta argued Rs 25,000 was too high. He also wanted the amount for donors to qualify for two votes to be reduced from the proposed Rs 10,00,000 to Rs 50,000 to a lakh.
    Mehta, however, annoyed Kathawalla when he argued that the hearing should have taken place before the Judge in chambers instead of the open division bench. Kathawalla admonished him for raising the objection at this late stage rather than January 12, 2022, following the hearing in his chambers the day before when the decision was made. He said he knew what Mehta's "intentions are, just to create a record,” to file an appeal. The Justice said the community could see "what you are doing”. He told Mehta "to see to the community’s progress,” instead of his own. "The community will never forget what you have done to it,” he remarked. A contrite Mehta apologized for the late objection stating, "I thought somebody else would do it (raise an objection).” 
  All "What we have done is in the interest of the community," said Kathawalla. Earlier he had admonished BPP chairwoman Armaity Tirandaz and trustee Xerxes Dastur for not being present in court during the hearing. "Something very important is being discussed and the trustees remain absent. Don’t they have priorities?” He noted the two had been absent at an earlier hearing also. 
As for Mehta’s allegation that the amendments to the election scheme were not proposed by the majority trustees but by lawyers Darius Khambatta and Berjis Desai, the amicus curiae Sharad Jagtiani noted that emails and correspondence showed the proposals were either put forward by the trustees or modified by them as per their requirements. "It is absolutely a scheme by the trustees," he averred. As for Mehta’s allegation that the code of conduct was proposed by others, Jagtiani pointed out that the trustees themselves had asked for it. Kathawalla was not in agreement with Mehta’s suggestion to lower the Rs 10 lakh donation for a donor to avail of two votes instead of one for the election. He said he was not in favor of people buying votes and would have liked the donor register to be scrapped altogether. A clause that required a majority of trustees to agree to a sale of property was dropped. Mehta wanted to amend the clause so that a sale would have to be unanimous while his son Viraf had stated earlier to drop the proposal. An annoyed Kathawalla berated both noting that their personal differences shouldn’t be manifested in court. "You can’t keep changing your point of view,” Kathawalla said to Viraf. Viraf interjected "we always wanted it to be unanimous.”
   As for the move to convert leave and licence agreements to tenancy at a time when elections werenearing, the lawyer for the majority trustees, Tirandaz, Viraf and Dastur, Firoz Bharucha stated as elections had not been announced there was no stay on taking policy decisions. Kathawalla said the aggrieved party could approach the courts. Lawyer Karl Tamboly appeared for the two minority trustees, Kersi Randeria and Noshir Dadrawala.