The Supreme Court has appointed senior advocate Sriram Panchu as mediator to resolve a dispute between two sections of the Parsi community on performing prayers or religious ceremonies at Doongerwadi (the Towers of Silence) in Mumbai and at two Agiaries (fire temples).
On April 7, a Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra suggested to the parties to explore the possibilities of settling the dispute by mediation. Since counsel for the parties said they would seek instructions, the Bench posted the matter for April 18.
On Monday, the Bench said: “We are happy to note that the parties are agreeable to sending the matter to mediation. We, therefore, appoint Mr. Sriram Panchu, senior advocate, Madras High Court, who is one of the foremost mediators in the country, as the mediator in this case. Mr. Panchu may also appoint a co-mediator of his choice to assist him.”
Interim order to continue
The Bench said: “The first meeting of the mediation will be held in Mumbai on a date and time fixed by Mr. Panchu in May after informing the parties concerned about the place and time determined by him. Subsequent meetings will be held at his discretion at the place and time fixed by him. Needless to say, in mediation, the proceedings are entirely confidential. List the case on July 19, 2011. Interim order of status quo passed by this court on April 7 will continue to operate till July 19.”
The present dispute arose when some Parsi priests were restrained by the Parsi Panchayat (Deed of Trust of 1884) from performing certain ceremonies in the Parsi Panchayat properties, viz., the Towers of Silence (the Doongerwadi Complex) and the two fire temples.
They filed a suit, and by the impugned order dated March 11, a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court held that under the Deed of Trust, the trustees are not entitled to prevent any duly ordained Parsi Zoroastrian priest from performing Zoroastrian religious rites and ceremonies on the premises of the Towers of Silence and the two Agiaries. The said order was challenged in this petition.