Rahul disqualification row: How petition filed by late SC lawyer triggered national debate
The intention of the petition was to remove criminal elements from politics by barring convicted lawmakers from contesting elections or holding any office, said SC advocate Saju Jakob.
Published: 25th March 2023 08:04 AM | Last Updated: 25th March 2023 10:57 AM | A+A A-
KOCHI: After the Surat District Court’s conviction of Rahul Gandhi and his subsequent disqualification by the Lok Sabha Secretariat as an MP has triggered a political storm, a Kerala connection has emerged in this case.
Lily Thomas Vs Union of India is now the cynosure of all eyes. The petition filed by late advocate Lily Thomas and the Supreme Court’s ruling on it is being widely debated across the country.
Lily Thomas challenged Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act which gave a convicted lawmaker the power to remain in office if an appeal was filed within three months of the conviction. The SC struck down Section 8(4) in 2013. Following the verdict, a legislator stands disqualified immediately when convicted of two or more years of imprisonment. The intention of the petition was to remove criminal elements from politics by barring convicted lawmakers from contesting elections or holding any office, said SC advocate Saju Jakob.
Saju and Lily jointly ran a law firm, Lily Thomas and Saju Jakob Advocates and Solicitors, in New Delhi. It was at the age of 85 that she won a landmark ruling that made it impossible for members of Parliament and state legislative bodies who have been convicted of crimes or are in jail to run for election or hold an elected seat, said Saju, who was like a son to Lily.
She filed many public interest litigations, including on the validity of the advocate-on-record examination, and matters relating to railway employees and the conversion to Islam for the purpose of a second marriage.
Lily, who hailed from Changanassery, grew up in Thiruvananthapuram. She joined the Madras High Court in 1955 and went on to complete her LLM in 1959. She later joined the SC, which then had just three women lawyers in active practice.
Saju, whose law office is adorned with the photographs of Lily, recalls that she had completely devoted her life to protecting the values of the Constitution. “She was concerned about persons with criminal antecedents becoming lawmakers. Some even contested from jail and were elected to law-making bodies. She wanted to end this and approached the Supreme Court,” he said.