SC allows Parsi woman to offer prayers in fire temple and temple of silence despite marrying outside community

 The Supreme Court bench on Thursday (14th December)directed the Valsad Parsi Panchayat to allow the Goolrookh Gupta and her sisters to attend prayers inside the fire temple as well as be present for the last rites of their family in the ‘tower of silence’. An undertaking was provided by the Valsad Parsi Panchayat stating that it would permit the petitioner to enter into the temple.

A special leave petition was filed by a Parsi Zoroastrian woman who had married outside the community under the Special Marriage Act 1954 contended that the Trustees managing the fire temple and the tower of silence in Valsad had prohibited her in the event of the death of her father from attending the funeral rites.

The special leave petition was preferred against the judgment of a 3-Judge Bench of the Gujarat High Court judgement dated March 23rd, 2012 wherein the High Court by a majority of 2:1 held that the religion of the woman having merged with that of her husband after marriage, therefore the woman would also become a non-Parsi.

The hearing resumed before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of CJI Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan.

Appearing for petitioner, Senior Advocate Indira Jaising argued that her client had every "right to be present at the funeral of her parents" and the freedom of faith cannot be curtailed by any person, including the State, much less a religious trust.

The question for consideration before this Constitution Bench was whether a Parsi Zoroastrian woman can keep her religious identity intact after choosing to marry someone from another faith under the Special Marriages Act of 1954.

As far as the issue regarding the second ‘tower of silence’ for participating in the funeral is concerned the Bench will take it up on the 17th January.