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Entry of menstruating women, non-Parsis inside Fire Temple not permissible, Delhi Parsi Anjuman tells Delhi HC

Entry of menstruating women, non-Parsis inside Fire Temple not permissible, Delhi Parsi Anjuman tells Delhi HC

Aditi Singh

The Delhi Parsi Anjuman has told the Delhi High Court that the entry of menstruating women of any religion including Zoroastrianism, or non-Parsis inside a Fire Temple is not legally or constitutionally permissible.

The averment was made by the Delhi Parsi Anjuman (DPA) in its reply to a petition to enable any Indian, specifically women of any religion (whether menstruating or not), to pray at the Sanctum Sanctorum of Fire Temple in DPA.

The DPA has claimed that the petition is misconceived and in ignorance of the essential beliefs, core tenets of Zoroastrianism, its structure and its legal status.

Dismissing apprehensions of gender bias, DPA has contended that Zoroastrian men who are bleeding or emitting discharge from any body part, also cannot enter the Fire Temple.

Even Zoroastrian men are excluded from entering Fire Temple if they are suffering from a bodily injury and bleeding. The exclusion of Zoroastrian women during their period of menstruation for the purpose of protecting the consecrated fire is a core, essential and unalterable part/tenant of Zoroastrianism.“, it is stated,

Such prohibition is neither arbitrary nor absolute, DPA adds, as it is only for the duration of the menstrual cycle or discharge.

As far as entry into the sanctum sanctorum of a Fire Temple is concerned, DPA has informed that entry is restricted to an ordained priest. Parsi men are also not permitted to go beyond a certain demarcated area in the Fire Temple.

The Petition filed through petitioner in person, advocate Sanjjiiv Kkumar sought a declaration that the prohibition on non-Parsi men and women, to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of holy Fire Temple at Delhi Parsi Anjuman, is illegal and unconstitutional.

DPA has argued that the exclusion of non-Zoroastrians from entry into a Fire Temple, in the practice of the Zoroastrian religion, is constitutionally protected under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India.

The present petition strikes at the very foundation of Zoroastrian faith professed by Parsis residing in India, the response by DPA states.

The Court has been informed that the DPA is established and maintained under a Declaration of Trust dated September 16, 1959, and is privately funded and endowed. The beneficiaries of DPA are exclusively and specifically, Parsi Zoroastrians. No other person has a legal or constitutional right in law to demand entry or use of the facilities of DPA including the fire temple, DPA has contended.

Since the Petitioner is not a Zoroastrian, his petition is “nothing but an illegal and unconstitutional attempt to enter the place of worship of another religion.”, it is submitted.

The Petitioner is seeking, that too as a matter of right, to enter the DPA Fire Temple ..under the unconstitutional premise that a person of any religion or belief has the right to enter the religious places of worship of another religion, including those privately funded and established with defined and specific beneficiaries. This premise strikes at the root of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India.”

Refuting claims of apartheid, untouchability or violation of Fundamental Rights under Articles 14,15,17,19 or 21, the DPA has submitted,

Barring entry of non-Zoroastrians in Zoroastrian places of worship is not based on factors like caste, colour or race nor is it discriminatory. It is only meant to uphold and maintain the rules and laws that govern the protection and integrity of the sacred fires and the pledge taken by the first band of refugees from ancient Persia not to adopt conversion in India.”

DPA has also addressed the issue of women not being ordained as priests in Parsi religion. It informed that several religious rituals and ceremonies are required for a Zoroastrian to become a priest, which require residence in a Fire temple for an extended period during which the person cannot be bleeding or emitting any discharge.

Thus, priesthood initiations are not allowed for women because they would not be able to uphold and follow the laws and rules governing the protection of sacred fire due to menstruation.

DPA has also challenged the maintainability of the writ petition under Article 226 since DPA is endowed by private funds with specific beneficiaries i.e. exclusively Parsi Zoroastrians, and does not qualify as State. It has also raised issues of misjoinder of parties and causes of action.

Since it is legally a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, DPA has also sought to differentiate itself from the Sabarimala  Temple case.

The Reply was filed through Karanjawala & Co.

The matter would be next heard on August 26.

Image taken from here.