The Delhi Parsi Anjuman (DPA) told the Delhi High Court that “no persons have right in law to demand entry or use of facilities” of DPA, including the Parsi fire temple near Delhi Gate.
The DPA said this in an affidavit filed before a division bench headed by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon. The bench was hearing a PIL which alleged that persons belonging to other races and religions were being discriminated against as they were being denied entry into the fire temple.
Calling it “not maintainable”, the DPA, in its reply, said the petition is “nothing but an illegal and unconstitutional attempt to enter the place of worship of another religion”.
“The relief sought in the petition would violate the fundamental right of privacy enjoyed under the Constitution of India by Zoroastrians and by the DPA and its members,” it added.
Besides DPA, the bench had also sought response of the Centre, the Delhi government and Delhi Police on the petition filed by Sanjjiiv Kkumaar, who has alleged that the fire temple was “practising a system of apartheid, untouchability and communalism by not allowing Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, etc to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the fire temple”.
As per Kkumaar’s plea, he came to know of the temple’s policy when he was denied entry there. He claimed that there is a notice outside the temple, which states that only Zoroastrians will be admitted.
The DPA maintained in its affidavit that the “fire temple is established and maintained under a declaration of trust dated 16.09.1959. It is privately funded and endowed, the beneficiaries of which are exclusively and specifically Parsi Zoroastrians. No other person has right in law to demand entry or use of facilities of the DPA, including the fire temple. The petitioner is not a Zoroastrian”.
“The present petition strikes at the very foundation of the Zoroastrian faith professed by Parsis residing not just in Delhi, but in India as well. Barring entry to 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,” it said.
It further said that Zoroastrian men are barred entry if they are suffering from bodily injury. “The exclusion of Zoroastrian women during menstruation for the purpose of protecting the consecrated fire is a core essential and unalterable…,” the reply said, reiterating that “Zoroastrianism does not believe in gender discrimination and places both men and women on equal footing”.
The DPA is managed by a board of trustees, elected by DPA members. The fire temple is managed by them.