Bombay HC rejects suit challenging Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s elevation as Dawoodi Bohra community chief

 Ending a decade-long legal battle, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday upheld the elevation of Dawoodi Bohra community’s spiritual leader Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddun as the ‘Dai-al-Mutlaq’ and dismissed a suit filed by his cousin, Syedna Taher Fakhruddin.

The much-anticipated verdict was pronounced by Justice G. S. Patel, just a couple of days before his superannuation, in the high-profile succession case that had shaken up the small sect of Shias.

The long-winded trial in the Syedna succession controversy was concluded nearly two years ago, the final arguments were taken up in November 2022 and ended in April 2023, and the reserved verdict was delivered on Tuesday.

Dismissing the suit, Justice Patel noted that he had kept the verdict as neutral as possible and had pronounced the judgement “based on the issue of proof and not faith”.

The row had erupted after the passing of the 52nd Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin on January 17, 2014, paving the way for his son, Mufaddal Saifuddin to take over as the new 53rd Syedna, the spiritual and religious head of the Dawoodi Bohras, spread globally.

However, the late 52nd Syedna’s step-brother Khuzaima Qutbuddin anointed himself as Syedna headquarters in Thane and challenged the elevation of Mufaddal Saifuddin as the 53rd Syedna, at the traditional base in Mumbai.

Among other things, Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin – who passed away in the US in 2016 – claimed that the late 52nd Syedna had privately conferred ‘nass’ (the official successor or inheritor) upon him in December 1965, which was valid as per the Bohra doctrine and precedents, and that Mufaddal Saifuddin had taken over as 53rd Syedna in a fraudulent manner.

After the demise of Syedna Qutbuddin, his son Syedna Taher Fakhruddin continued the succession case against the 53rd Syedna, whose contention was that his father, the 52nd Syedna, had named him as the successor in June 2011 while he was recuperating from a stroke at a London hospital.

While Syedna Taher Fakhruddin’s legal team was led by advocate Anand Desai, the 53rd Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s side was headed by senior counsel Iqbal Chagla.

The office of 53rd Syedna expressed its gratitude over the landmark judgement passed by Justice Patel, after carefully considering the evidence and arguments made by both sides before conclusively ruling in favour of the defendant.

“The rather unfortunate challenge to 53rd Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin’s appointment and the various falsehoods that it was based on has been conclusively dealt with in the court judgement and the claims of (the late) Khuzaima Qutbuddin, the Original Plaintiff and his son Taher Qutbuddin, the current Plaintiff, have been comprehensively rejected,” the team said.

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The judgement has firmly dealt with and dismissed the misinterpretation and misleading portrayal by the plaintiffs of the facts and the religious doctrines of the Dawoodi Bohra faith, it added.

Meanwhile, the Dawoodi Bohra community members calmly accepted the verdict on an issue that had been much debated and discussed in hushed tones.

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