Lily Thomas was a rainbow of pioneering. We mourn her loss as one of the tallest pillars of the legal institution.
Born in Kottayam, Kerala, she obtained her degree of law from Madras University where she was the first woman to complete LLM course. She was deeply committed to improving the rule of law by her crusade through petitions and considered this the responsibility of every lawyer. Even at her age she continued to appear in court and worked for 8-10 hours every day.
She stood out as a champion of good society and led the path for the poor and underprivileged. I have known her for decades and her attributes are much to be desired. Not only was she an outstanding lawyer but a vibrant multifaceted human being who cherished every moment and charmed everyone with her zeal for life. Known for her fearless arguments in court, she was a public-spirited lawyer who fought many human rights cases and stood against political corruption. Recently I met her quite a few times at the Neeti Bagh Club; at conferences and events. Her indomitable spirit was more than evident.
Her path breaking judgements led to major changes including decriminalisation of politics. During the course of her legal career, she had challenged the validity of the Advocates-on-Record system for filing Supreme Court cases and laws permitting bigamy upon conversion. With her stellar efforts, the Supreme Court reaffirmed in 2000 that a man whose marriage is governed by Hindu laws, cannot enter into a second marriage merely by changing his religion, unless his first marriage is dissolved. A true noble torchbearer will always be missed by us all.
Author is an Assistant Solicitor General at Supreme Court of India.