Verdict on Dawoodi Bohra Succession - Bombay High Court uphold's Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin's position

Verdict on Dawoodi Bohra Succession - Bombay High Court uphold's Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin's position

The final hearing began in November 2022 and concluded in April 2023, when the order was reserved by the Bombay High Court

court verdict

The decade long legal battle on the Dawoodi Bohra Succession case came to an end today 23 April. The Bombay High Court upheld the position of the Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as Dai-ul-Mutlaq or religious leader of the Dawoodi Bohra Community.

Bombay HIgh Court Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin Syedna Position Upheld

Justice Gautam Patel pronounced the verdict while dismissing Taher Fakhruddin's suit.

The Order on the case, which was being heard in the court of Justice Gautam Patel, was reserved by the Honorable Court after the trial concluded in April 2023. After a year long hiatus, the final verdict was announced on 23 April. The dispute pertained to the spiritual leadership or the post of Dai-Ul-Mutlaq, of the Dawoodi Bohra Community.

Brief History

After the death of the 52nd Syedna, Dr. Mohammad Burhanuddin in 2014, his son Mufaddal Saifuddin was declared the 53rd Dai-ul-Mutlaq or religious head of the Dawoodi Bohra community. His half-brother Khuzaima Qutbuddin had laid claim to the position of Dai-ul-Mutlaq, based on a secret nass conferred upon him by the late Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin in 1965, when he publicly announced him as his Maazoon (second in command) and privately annointed him as his successor. Upon the death of Khuzaima Qutbuddin in 2016, his son, Tahir Fakhruddin laid claim to the position of Dai-ul-Mutlaq as the 54th religious head of the Dawoodi Bohra community, claiming that his father conferred nass upon him.

Five Issues were framed, namely: (1) requirements of a valid nass; (2) whether a nass can be revoked or changed; (3) whether a valid nass was conferred on Mufaddal Saifuddin; (4) whether a valid nass was conferred on the claimant Khuzaim Qutbuddin and (5) whether a valid nass was conferred on his son Tahir Fakhruddin.

Advocate Anand Desai, counsel for Tahir Fakhruddin argued that nass once conferred cannot be revoked and is permanent, while the defendant Mufaddal Saifuddin's counsel Advocate Janak Dwarkadas asserted that nass can be changed and if the original nass was conferred on Qutbuddin, the final nass on Mufaddal Saifuddin was valid. Senior Advocate Dwarkadas argued that Qutbuddin's original claimed nass had no witness and also questioned why Qutbuddin remained silent between 2011 (when nass was conferred on Mufaddal Saifuddin) and 2014 (his final appointment as 53rd Dai-ul-Mutlaq). He claimed that Saifuddin was conferred the succession in 1969, 2005 and two times in 2011, while Advocate Desai contended that all these four nass were concocted.

Excerpt from Statement to Press (Defendant Mufaddal Saifuddin)

"The Dawoodi Bohra community is most gratified by the passing of this landmark judgement by His Lordship, Mr Justice G.S Patel of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court in what is a historic and defining moment for the community. The judgement,  which after having carefully considered the evidence led and the elaborate arguments advanced by both the parties, has conclusively held that the 52nd al-Dai al-Mutlaq His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin had appointed his son, His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin as his successor and the 53rd al-Dai al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra community."

..."We have always believed and have had full faith and conviction in the Indian judiciary, which has time and again affirmed the position of the Syedna and the Dawoodi Bohra community’s age-old beliefs, customs, practices and doctrines."

Excerpt from Statement to Press (Plaintiff Taher Fakhruddin)

"In light of the unfavourable judgement of single-judge of the High Court of Bombay in the Dawoodi Bohra leadership succession suit, Syedna Fakhruddin Saheb vows to continue the fight and appeal this judgement, to the full extent of the legal process. The Syedna believes in this fight as this is a fight not for anything else but to restore respect and trust in and of the Community."

..."The judgment was made available yesterday evening. Upon initial review, it appears to have 'Failed to address critical evidence'; 'Atributed positions and statements to the Plaintiff, which he never took'; 'Applied different standards to the evidence put forward by the Plaintiff and Defendant'; 'Contradicted itself in places'

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