Lily Thomas: The Kerala-lawyer behind the law that led to Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification

Lilly, an ML graduate from the Madras university, started practicing in the Supreme Court in 1968. Photo: Manorama Online

New Delhi: Meet Lily Thomas, the Malayali lawyer who led to the enactment of a law that disqualifies elected representatives from parliament upon being convicted in criminal cases.

It was Lilly Isabel Thomas, a member of the Kuthukallungal family in Changanassery, who moved the petition challenging section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, which finally resulted in the apex court verdict in 2013.

Her argument was that it’s not the criminals who should be making the legislation sitting in the parliament, the basic function of which is to pass the laws.

Lilly, an ML graduate from the Madras university, started practicing in the Supreme Court in 1968. Interestingly, she began her career by filing a petition against the apex court itself.

Her first petition sought to challenge a condition set by the Supreme Court that a lawyer should qualify in the ‘Advocates on Record’ examination for filing a petition with the apex court. Lilly, however, lost the case.

While pronouncing the verdict, then Chief Justice P B Gajendragadkar observed that the petitioner did not have to work even less than one-tenth of what she had done in this case for qualifying for the examination. Lilly obliged. She studied hard and qualified in the exam and even started practicing in the Supreme Court.

A steadfast woman, Lilly had been on the radar of the government during the Emergency period. The Supreme Court verdict, which declared illegal the practice of Hindu men marrying another woman after converting to another religion and divorcing his existing wife, also followed her petition.

She died at the age of 91, in December 2019.

Opposition leader and Congress MP from Wayanad Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the membership of Lok Sabha the other day after he was sentenced to two years in prison in a defamation case.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.