Mumbai: High Court judge expresses his impatience with the slow pace of Syedna row

Updated: Mar 22, 2018, 11:10 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

As the Syedna row rages on in the high court, the judge expresses his impatience over the slow pace four years on, they are still not done with the first witness

Taher Fakhruddin
Taher Fakhruddin

The Bohra community is not the only entity that has been driven to the edge by the long-running Syedna succession feud. Justice Gautam Patel expressed his frustration over the slow progress in the high-stakes case at the Bombay High Court yesterday, while lambasting Syedna contender Taher Fakhruddin for "contradictory" statements.

'I am not amused'
For the last four years, the case has left the Bohra community divided into two factions (see box). On Wednesday, Justice Patel expressed his impatience when Fakhruddin was being cross-examined by the opposing counsel, Iqbal Chagla. The judge told Fakhruddin's lawyer Anand Desai: 'Tell your client that I am not amused.'

The remark was made in light of Fakhruddin's contradictory statements when asked about a witness. Chagla had asked Fakhruddin whether, according to him, a nass of succession can be conferred by written communication addressed from the Dai to his intended successor. Fakhruddin said, "It has been done so by the 20th Imam when he appointed the 21st Imam. The letter appointing the 21st Imam, known as the Sijil-ul-Bisharat, was sent to Hurrat-ul-Maleka in Yemen and she authenticated the letters and its contents."

But later, when Chagla asked him whether, according to him, Hurrat-ul-Maleka was a witness to the written communication from the 20th Imam, Fakhruddin replied, "No."

This is when Chagla pointed out to his affidavit, in which Fakhruddin had stated that the 20th Imam had chosen Hurrat-ul-Maleka 'to be the single witness to the nass he conferred via the Sijil-ul-Bisharat.'

'Unimaginable stakes'
Justice Patel stepped in and said, "The statements seem to be contradictory," said Patel. "Which one of these two statements is true?" Patel went on to tell Anand Desai: "Explain to your client that I am not amused — I have far better things to do with my time. I do not see this as being trivial — this is extraordinarily serious business, and I don't think there has been a case of this magnitude in decades. The stakes are unimaginable."

"I cannot work like this. We have a serious time deficit. When is this ever going to end? We are still not done with the first witness four years after the case started," the judge added.

Later, he added, "This is my court and I will have an answer to this question. I have myself three times explained and pointed out the apparent contradiction between the two statements, and I am unable to get a clear answer." The cross-examination will continue on Thursday.

Also read: Mumbai: HC records statement of Taher Fakhruddin, who seeks to be declared Syedna

Succession battle
Taher Fakhruddin seeks to be declared as Syedna, or head of the Dawoodi Bohra community. In 2014, his father Khuzaima Qutbuddin filed a suit in the HC after his brother and then Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin passed away. His son, Mufaddal Saifuddin, took over as the new Syedna. Qutbuddin sought to restrain his nephew. In 2016, Qutbuddin passed away, and Fakhruddin took over the case. Dawoodi Bohras are part of the Shia sect that broke away from Sunnis after a dispute over Prophet Muhammad's successor.

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