Parsi Women

A young Parsi woman prays near figures of knights at a fire temple on the Parsi New Year Navroze in Mumbai. The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a verdict that says a woman who marries a non-Parsi will cease to be Parsi. (Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images) 

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court April 20 agreed to examine the contentious issue of whether a Parsi woman can be deprived of her religious identity, acquired by the virtue of her birth, after marrying a man of different religion.

The apex court was dealing with an appeal challenging the Gujarat High Court's March 2012 verdict, which held that Parsi woman, by contracting civil marriage with a non-Parsi under the Special Marriage Act, would cease to be a Parsi.

It was also held that she would be deemed to have acquired the religious status of her husband, unless a court makes a declaration for the continuation of her Parsi status.

A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra observed that the actual issue was a woman’s "religious identity."

"We are actually dealing with identity... Presently it is about religious identity, as before marriage, you are a Parsi and you say after marrying a Hindu man, I cannot be deprived of my identity by virtue of birth and my identity by religion," the bench, which also included Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and M.M. Shantanagoudar, said.

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

The counsel appearing for the petitioner said the issue that required consideration was whether a woman can be deemed to have acquired the religion of her husband.

The petitioner, a born Parsi woman, approached the high court contending that even after her marriage to a Hindu man, she has continued to follow the Zoroastrian religion and thus had the right to enjoy all privileges under the Parsi religion, including the rights to offer prayers at Agiari, a Parsi temple with holy fire, and to the tower of silence.

She has contended that her rights as a Parsi cannot be denied on the grounds that she has married a non- Parsi man.

She further argued that a male Parsi continues to enjoy all rights available to a born Parsi, even if he is married to a non-Parsi woman.

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