Bombay High Court Declaratory Suit 8th, 11th & 12th December 2017

The recording of the evidence of His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb (TUS), the Plaintiff in Suit 337/2014, which had been originally filed by his predecessor His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin Saheb RA in the Hon’ble Bombay High Court, began on the 8th of December 2017 at 12:00pm in the historic Courtroom No. 46, presided over by the Hon’ble Justice Gautam Patel.

The Plaintiff first took the oath, and prayed Bismillah.

The Plaintiff was first examined by his Cousel Mr. Anand Desai of DSK Legal. The Hon’ble Justice Gautam Patel also asked the Plaintiff several questions. 

Mr. Desai asked the Plaintiff to explain the origins of the Dawoodi Bohra community. The Plaintiff replied that Dawoodi Bohras are Shia Ismaili Muslims, followers of Imam Ismail AS.. Syedna Saheb explained that Ismaili Shia’s believe that nass of succession, once conferred, cannot be revoked, changed, superseded or replaced and that is a core Dawoodi Bohra theological doctrine. This was the basic difference in belief from the followers of Musa Kazim, who believed that the nass on Ismail was revoked, and nass was then conferred on Musa Kazim by Imam Jafer us-Sadiq.

(An issue is of central importance in this succession case is that the defendant, Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin, is saying that nass can be revoked, superseded, replaced or changed.)

Mr. Desai asked the Plaintiff about the sources of doctrinal knowledge in the Dawoodi Bohra community. The Plaintiff answered that in the hierarchy of texts, the highest would be the Holy Qur’an, the hadith of Mohammed Rasulullah SA, and the sayings of the Imams. At the same level are books of the Dais. The Plaintiff explained that the books are like notes, and it is the oral interpretations provided by the Dais that are considered the highest level, as they are the authentic interpretations of the texts.

The Plaintiff said that he is also relying on oral interpretations given by the 51st Dai His Holiness the Late Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb RA and the 52nd Dai His Holiness the Late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb RA to establish issues of belief and doctrine in this case.

The Hon’ble Justice Gautam Patel asked the Plaintiff whether it is important or necessary for others to know of the conferment of nass at or around the time when it is conferred. The Plaintiff replied that it is not compulsory or necessary, and that there are historical precedents of keeping such a conferment private, including to prevent opposing forces from attempting a disruption in the chosen order of Dais.

Mr. Desai asked the Plaintiff to provide an explanation for the case of private nass, where the nass is communicated only from the appointer to the appointed. The Plaintiff answered that not only is this possible, but gave several historical examples of when this has been previously done. The Plaintiff also stated that he has personally heard the 52nd Dai on multiple occasions say that private nass is valid and there are audio recordings of the 51st Dai saying this.

Mr. Desai asked the Plaintiff to explain the case where a mansoos (successor) dies before he assumes office as Dai. The Plaintiff explained that once nass is conferred, the mansoos has already reached the high station in this world and will attain the same high station in heaven. The Dai would anoint a new mansoos by conferring nass on him in case his mansoos passes away during the lifetime of the Dai. In support of this, among other examples, the Plaintiff quoted the Holy Quran (Ch. 19: Verse 53:  53rd verse of Surat Maryam) which states that Prophet Haroon (Aaron), the mansoos (appointed successor) of Prophet Musa (Moses), is referred to as having the same station as Musa himself, that of Nabi (Prophet). Another mansoos was appointed after Prophet Haroon passed away.

Mr. Desai asked the Plaintiff what is the difference between Sajda (prostration) of worship and Sajda to an Imam or his Dai. The Plaintiff replied that the Sajda for worship can be done only to Allah (God); Sajda to an Imam or his Dai is also denoted as ‘taqbeel al ard’ (meaning kissing of the ground) and is the highest form of respect.

(This point is important because the Plaintiff’s case is that sajda is only done to an Imam, Imam-to-be, his Dai or Dai-to-be. The Defendant and his brothers used to perform Sajda to the Original Plaintiff Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin Saheb.)

Mr. Desai also asked whether there are any expressions used to jointly refer to the Dai and the Mazoon. The Plaintiff, illustratively, named the following:

  • The Mazoon is the right hand of the Dai and jointly takes up the work of the Dawat
  • The Dai and the Mazoon are the spiritual parents of the people of Dawat
  • The Mazoon is the true friend of the Dai and witness upon the believers

The Plaintiff also offered testimony about the photos taken when Syedna Burhanuddin RA viewed the handwritten misaal (letter) written by the 51st Dai Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb RA to Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin Saheb RA. Syedna Burhanuddin and Syedna Qutbuddin are visible in the photographs and Syedna Fakhruddin took the photographs. The misaal has clear indications by the 51st Dai that the Original Plaintiff would be the 53rd Dai.

The Hon’ble Justice Gautam Patel asked the Plaintiff the reasons for wanting to rely on audio and video recordings of the 51st and 52nd Dais sermons. The Plaintiff replied that he is relying on these  as they are the authoritative pronouncements by the 51st Dai and 52nd Dai on several key doctrinal beliefs, including:

  • There can be a private conferment of nass
  • That the mansoos can testify for himself and in favour of himself to show that the Dai conferred nass on him
  • That a nass can be conferred with an indication
  • That a nass once conferred cannot be changed, revoked or superseded
  • To show the high credibility and station of the rank of Mazoon

The examination in chief concluded and Senior Counsel Mr. Iqbal Chagla for the defendant Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin, began his cross-examination.

Mr. Chagla asked many questions about the Plaintiff’s personal background, inquiring in detail into his educational background, places of residence, business dealings, and also other family related matters.

Mr. Chagla asked the Plaintiff about the special knowledge and Dawat secrets bestowed upon him by the Original Plaintiff, inquiring into their purpose. He replied that the reason for bestowing such knowledge was so that he “could serve the Dawat and the Dai”. Mr. Chagla asked how the Original Plaintiff expected the Plaintiff to serve Dawat and the Dai. He replied: “In the way he had served them, with sincerity and devotion.”

Mr. Chagla questioned the Plaintiff about the role of the Mazoon in settling disputes relating to the identity of the true Dai, and Syedna Fakhruddin indicated that in previous disputes, the word of the Mazoon was taken as authoritative in determining the true Dai.

Syedna Fakhruddin was asked when he believed that his father, the 53rd Dai Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin Saheb was the successor to the 52nd Dai. He replied that it was a progression from childhood and the actions of the 52nd Dai’s children, including the defendant, all of whom offered Sajda to Syedna Qutbuddin, and jointly referred to the 52nd Dai and Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb as “Bewe Moula” (Both Moula), contributed to this belief.

Mr. Chagla also entered into evidence a newspaper article that the Plaintiff had brought in his Plaint, but which was not earlier admitted by the Defendant. This newspaper article quoted the former Chief Justice of India, the Hon’ble Justice Aziz M. Ahmadi saying that “I examined the documents and believe that Syedna Qutbuddin’s stand of the 53rd Dai is principled”.  The Hon’ble Justice Patel took this document on record as the Defendant’s exhibit.

The Hon’ble Justice Patel has scheduled the further cross-examination of the Plaintiff on 8th, 9th, and 12th of January 2018.

Bombay High Court 7th March 2017

The Hon’ble Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court allowed Chamber Summons No. 1290 of 2016 in Suit No. 337 of 2014, whereby His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb TUS has been substituted as the Plaintiff after the sad demise of the Original Plaintiff His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA. Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb will now continue the suit against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin to establish that Syedna Fakhruddin Saheb is the 54th Dai al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra Community after establishing that Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin was the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq. Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin and his respresentatives had claimed the suit had abated and that he had won the Suit after the sad demise of Syedna Khuziama Qutbuddin. The Hon’ble High Court has also fixed a timetable for carrying out the amendments, the Defendant to file an additional written statement, and has listed the Succesion Suit for directions in May 2017 itself. This is a very positive step towards resolving the issue of the rightful successor to the 52nd Dai His Holiness the Late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA and for the future of the Dawoodi Bohra Community.

Bombay High Court 15th November 2016

The date for hearing the Chamber Summons filed by His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS, in the Hon’ble Bombay High Court has been fixed for 7th December 2016 by the Hon’ble Justice K. R. Shriram.

The Chamber Summons seeks the substitution of Syedna Taher Fakhruddin as the Plaintiff in the Suit filed by his predecessor His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin.

Gujarat High Court 10th November 2016 – Judgment On Petition

The Hon’ble Gujarat High Court has pronounced an order (Civil Application No. 5650 of 2016) granting the applications filed by Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb TUS and permitting Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb TUS to be substituted in the place and stead of his predecessor Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb RA in pending petitions and dismissing Civil Application No. 4339 of 2016 filed by Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin. On 10.11.2016, all the applications were listed for pronouncement of judgment before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court. The Judgement is available to view on the Gujarat High Court website

Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb sadly passed away in the USA on 30th March 2016. Upon his passing away, his successor Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb filed applications before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court praying for substitution as petitioner in his place. In the applications, Syedna Fakhruddin Saheb stated that immediately after the passing away of Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb, Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin and his men had filed applications/affidavits/purchis before Assistant Charity Commissioners with the objective of getting their Change Reports allowed ex-parte by falsely stating on oath that the Hon’ble Bombay High Court had dismissed the suit filed by Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb. Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin and his men were trying to take advantage of the passing away of Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb with the objective of getting their Change Reports allowed ex-parte.

Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin had also filed Civil Application No. 4339 of 2016 before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court praying for an order that the petition filed by Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb be disposed of as abated and praying that the Charity Commissioners be directed to proceed with Change Reports.

Upon the sad passing away of the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra community Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb in January 2014, a succession dispute arose between Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin Saheb, Mazoon for 50 years and Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin. Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb filed a suit in the Hon’ble Bombay High Court for a declaration that he was the anointed successor of the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq and, therefore, the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq. Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb also filed petitions before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court pertaining to a large number of Waqfs and Trusts of which the Dai is the Sole Trustee.

Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb’s Chamber Summons in the Hon’ble Bombay High Court to be substituted as Plaintiff in the Suit filed by Syedna Qutbuddin is scheduled for hearing and final disposal by the Hon’ble Justice Shriram on the 7th of December 2016.

Bombay High Court 19th October 2016

The Chamber Summons filed by His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS was listed to be heard by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court on October 19, 2016. The matter did not get heard for paucity of time during the day, and on October 20, 2016 our advocates mentioned the matter before the Hon’ble Bombay High Court, when the Hon’ble Court directed that the chamber summons be listed for Directions on November 15, 2016, after the Diwali vacation.

Bombay High Court Update: 21st September 2016

The date for hearing the Chamber Summons filed by His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS, in the Hon’ble Bombay Court has been fixed for 19th October 2016 by the Hon’ble Justice K. R. Shriram.

The Chamber Summons seeks the substitution of Syedna Taher Fakhruddin as the Plaintiff in the Suit filed by his predecessor His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin.

Chamber Summons Filed In Bombay High Court

His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS, the 54th Dai al-Mutlaq has filed a Chamber Summons on the 27th of June 2016 in the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay to be substituted as plaintiff in the Suit filed by his predecessor His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA, the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin.

Syedna Qutbuddin sadly passed away to his heavenly abode on 30th March 2016 in California, USA. Before his passing Syedna Qutbuddin had appointed his eldest son Syedna Taher Fakhruddin as his Mansoos (successor) on 8th November 2015.

Prior to filing the Suit in Hon’ble High Court the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA had made repeated attempts to resolve this unfortunate issue internally within the Community, inviting Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin to a debate to establish the truthfulness of the nass conferred on him by His Holiness the Late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb RA , the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq. Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin did not respond to that call. Syedna Taher Fakhruddin also invited Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin to a debate according to the precedents of the community, and in the interests of resolving this matter, which affects the whole community. But Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin has not responded to that invitation either.

To ensure that the path set by the previous Dai al-Mutlaq’s is followed, and the Community is not torn asunder by false claimants, and having full faith in the Indian Judiciary, Syedna Fakhruddin has approached the Hon’ble High Court for appropriate remedies.

In a statement Syedna Fakhruddin said “Since Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin is unwilling to resolve the matter internally through a debate to establish the truth, we have approached the Hon’ble Court, in which we have full faith, with evidence that will expose the falsehoods being perpetuated by Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin. I will continue the fight that my revered father Syedna Qutbuddin started, for truth, justice, and the future and well-being of the Dawoodi Bohra community”

Note:
The Suit 337 of 2014 was filed by His Holiness Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin Saheb against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin in the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay in April 2014. Cross-examination of Syedna Qutbuddin started on 27th April 2015 and was ongoing when His Holiness sadly passed away.

Bombay High Court – Further Update on 6th April 2016

It is hereby clarified that the Hon’ble High Court has not passed any order declaring that the suit filed by Syedna Qutbuddin has abated. The Hon`ble High Court has merely cancelled the dates which were reserved for hearing of the suit.

As per the legal advice received by us, the scheme of the law is that the legal representative of the original plaintiff (in our case the legal representative of Syedna Qutbuddin RA) can make an application to be brought on record as plaintiff within 90 days. The law provides that the suit abates only on the expiry of the 90 days from the date of the death of Syedna Qutbuddin RA if no such application is made.

Court Hearings on 22nd April & 2nd May

Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin TUS, the Plaintiff in the Declaratory Suit filed in the Bombay High Court, will appear in the Honorable High Court for his testimony on the 22nd of April 2016 (16th Rajab 1437H) and the 2nd of May 2016 (26th Rajab 1437H) inshaallah.

An article was published in the Times of India about the new court dates.  A copy of the article is published on FatemiDawat.com