Mary Roy, who fought a 39-year-long legal battle to gain equal access to the property of her deceased father that led to a landmark Supreme Court judgement against the archaic Travancore Christian Succession Act of 1916, unfortunately, passed away on Thursday after suffering from a brief illness. She was 89 and is survived by two children Lalit Roy and a daughter Arundhati Roy, a renowned writer and activist who won the 1997 Man Booker prize.
Born in a Christian family, Mary was the daughter of P.V. Isaac, who was an entomologist and had training from England. She completed her cosmopolitan education in Delhi and further she achieved her graduation degree from the Queen’s Mary College, Chennai. After her marriage broke down, Ms Roy took to teaching to support the family and returned to Kottayam to start her own school Corpus Christi in 1961. Having presided over the school, which later changed its name to Pallikoodam, for five decades, she stopped being an active part of the school management last year due to ill health.
In 1960, Ms Roy sued her brother George Isaac to gain equal access to the property of her deceased father. The battle, which lasted for about 39 years and was finally settled in favour of Mary Roy in 2009, stands as one of the pillars of gender justice in the country.
Undoubtedly, she had a major impact on the education landscape in Kerala and a clear vision for her students. In the process, she also managed to contribute to Indian legal history, through her battles for gender equality and free speech. By challenging patriarchal societal norms, religious orthodoxy and the arbitrary exercise of power by the state, she was a positive disruptor of the status quo of Kerala society. She was able to achieve in her 89 years more than many can achieve in their lifetime. Despite her departure, her legacy will continue to live on.