Noted social worker Mary Roy dies at 89

The case she fought helped Syrian Christian women secure equal rights in their father’s property.

Published : Sep 01, 2022 15:47 IST

Mary Roy.

Mary Roy. | Photo Credit: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Noted educationist and social worker Mary Roy, whose legal battle ensured equal rights for Syrian Christian women in their ancestral property, died on September 1, family sources said.

She was 89. Her end came at 9.15 AM at her residence in the suburb of this town due to age-related ailments, they said.

Roy, mother of writer and Man Booker Prize Winner Arundhati Roy and Lalith Roy, is also the founder of the famous Pallikoodam school. To enable people to pay tribute, her body will be kept at her residence in Pallikoodam campus for viewing from 3 PM to 9 PM on September 1 and on September 2 from 7 AM to noon in the MR Block, Pallikoodam campus, the family said. Her funeral will be held in the afternoon.

In the mid-1980s, Roy had launched a legal battle in the Supreme Court seeking gender equality for women in inheritance in the ancestral property of the Syrian Christian families in Kerala. In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court in 1986 allowed her plea.

Overturning the provisions in the Travancore Succession Act of 1916 of the princely state of Travancore, the Supreme Court ruled that women members of the community had equal rights in their father’s property. The case, fought against her brothers seeking her equal rights over her deceased father’s property, is known as the “Mary Roy case” in Indian legal history.

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Born in 1933 in a famous Christian family at Aymanam village near Kottayam, Roy did her schooling in Delhi and later secured a degree from a college in Chennai. She married Rajeeb Roy while working as a secretary at a company in Kolkata. She established Pallikkoodam in 1967.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly V.D. Satheesan condoled the demise of Roy. Condoling her death, Vijayan said Mary made significant contributions in education and activities to ensure women’s welfare in the society. The Chief Minister also recalled that she was a person who has made a place in history through her legal fight for property rights of women.

Condoling the demise of Roy, Satheesan said she was a symbol of the struggle for women’s rights.


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