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Managing Marriage: The Parsi Chief Matrimonial Court in Colonial India


September 27, 2013
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
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Levinthal Hall, Stanford Humanites Center

Lecture by Mitra Sharafi, University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Zoroastrianism Studies Lecture Series 2013-2104. Sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and co-sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center. Free and open to the public.

Since its creation in 1865, the Parsi Chief Matrimonial Court (PCMC) has provided the Parsi community with a unique system for the resolution of matrimonial disputes. Under all other bodies of personal law in India, cases are decided by a judge or judges alone. Under Parsi law, it is the delegates of the PCMC who decide these cases. This talk explores the history of the PCMC during its early days in British India. In many ways, the PCMC’s delegate system resembled a type of jury system seen in Anglo-American legal history: the special jury. During the Raj, the PCMC delegate system acted effectively as a civil jury. It appears to have been the only instance of the civil jury employed in India in the late colonial period. This lecture situates the PCMC within the history of the jury in colonial India, and explores the leanings and demographic character of the court up to 1947.

Mitra Sharafi is a legal historian of South Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds law degrees from Cambridge and Oxford and a doctorate in history from Princeton. Her book, Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772-1947, is forthcoming in 2014 with Cambridge University Press. Sharafi’s research has been funded by the Institute for Advanced Study through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council.  In addition to teaching at the UW Law School, she is a core faculty member of UW’s interdisciplinary undergraduate Legal Studies program and is affiliated with the History Department and Center for South Asia.