Supreme Court To Examine Religious Rights Of Parsi Women Married To Non-Parsi Men

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Supreme Court To Examine Religious Rights Of Parsi Women Married To Non-Parsi Men

The Gujarat High Court ruled if a Parsi woman married a non-Parsi, she would cease to be a Parsi. (AFP)

New Delhi:  Should a Parsi woman married to a non-Parsi be allowed to follow her religion? Should she have access to the Tower of Silence, the place for last rites of Zoroastrians, and other Parsi religious institutions to offer prayers and perform rituals? The Supreme Court in August will analyse whether a Parsi woman after marriage deemed to take the religion of her husband would cease to be a Parsi.

It will also examine if a Parsi woman can be deprived of her religious identity and rights after marrying a man of different religion.

The top court was dealing with an appeal challenging the Gujarat High Court's March 2012 verdict in which it was held that Goolrokh Adi Contractor, a Parsi, who had married Mahipal Gupta, a Hindu, under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, ceased to be a Parsi.  

Her lawyer Indira Jaising yesterday told the court she was denied entry to the Tower of Silence for the funeral of her father and that there was no law in India which said the wife must adopt her husband's religion.

But the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust while supporting the Gujarat High Court verdict added that as per the Parsi Personal Law, a woman married to a Hindu can't be allowed to offer prayers and that it is up to the court whether personal laws are amenable to judicial review.

The court had already issued notices to the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust.

A bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra, AM Khanwilkar and MM Shantanagoudar observed that the issue dealt with the aspect of "religious identity" of a woman.

"There has to be a broader canvass of understanding," the bench observed and fixed the matter for hearing in the first week of August.

The three-judge bench of the Gujarat High Court had dismissed the petition demanding a direction to Parsi Anjuman Trust not to prohibit her entry to Parsi religious places and to allow her to attend the last rites of her parents.

The high court had maintained that unlike her male counterpart, if a Parsi woman married a non-Parsi, her religious identity would merge with that of her husband and that she would be deemed converted to his religion. If she wanted to continue to be a Parsi, she would have to specifically "give up her husband's religion in court or prove that she led the Parsi way of life".

Right now, if Parsi women marry outside their community, they lose their right to the home in a Parsi baug, they can never enter an agiary or fire temple, and the children born out of such an alliance can't avail benefits of Parsi trust funds.

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