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Justice Khehar Singh: Six reasons to know more about him

Justice Khehar’s appointment comes at a time when the government and the judiciary are locked in a tussle over how judges should be appointed to the higher courts.

Published: 06th December 2016 11:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th December 2016 11:29 PM   |  A+A-

Capture

Jagdish Singh Khehar (R) | EPS

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar will be the successor to Justice T S Thakur as the chief justice of India. He will be sworn in on Jan. 4, 2017, the day after Justice Thakur is to retire. Justice Khehar will be in office for seven months until he retires in August 2017.

Justice Khehar’s appointment comes at a time when the government and the judiciary are locked in a tussle over how judges should be appointed to the higher courts.

The government wants a role for its nominees in the matter. But chief justice Thakur wants the present Collegium process to continue in which the chief justice recommends appointments on basis of screening by a Collegium of fellow judges.
 
Here’s why Justice Khehar’s appointment is significant.
 
1. Justice Khehar led the bench that struck down the NJAC Act
 
Justice Khehar led the five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court that struck down the controversial National Judicial Accountability Commission (NJAC) Act back in October 2015.

That law passed by Parliament, had it taken effect, would have set up a commission to select judges in which three members would be from the Supreme Court and three would be non-judicial nominees.

The five-judge bench headed by Justice Khehar held, by a 4-1 vote, the law as unconstitutional. The lone dissenting judge was Justice J Chelameshwar who believes that the the Collegium process lacks transparency.
 
2. He’s Chief Justice Thakur’s choice
 
Justice Khehar’s appointment was recommended by the incumbent chief justice T S Thakur who has been holding out against the government in keeping the Collegium process going. Justice Thakur says the government must act faster on his recommendations to fill up vacancies in the higher courts across the country but the the government denies it is dragging its feet.

There’s nothing unusual, however, in Justice Thakur recommending Justice Khehar as his successor. The latter happens to be the senior most judge in the present Supreme Court anyway.
 
3. The Arunachal embarrassment
 
Justice Khehar also headed the Supreme Court bench that set aside President's Rule in Arunachal Pradesh in January this year. That was an embarrassment for the BJP-led NDA regime at the Centre, which allowed a bunch of defectors to hold power for a few months. The reversal in the Supreme Court led to the restoration of a Congress government. 
 
4. He’s a hard-nosed judge

Justice Khehar headed a bench that upheld that the principle of equal pay for equal work and made it applicable to daily wagers, casual and contractual employees who perform the same duties as regular employees.
 
He was also on the bench that sent Sahara India chief Subrata Roy to jail in a case relating to refund of monies to investors.
 
5. He’s fiercely committed to judicial independence
 
Justice Khehar spoke up for the judiciary in the face of blunt criticism by the attorney general Mukul Rohatgi last month.

At the Constitution Day function on November 26, the government’s top legal eagle offered gratuitous advice to the court to stay within its “Laxman Rekha”. In response, Justice J S Khehar said, “Be is the 39th amendment of the Constitution (placing the office of PM beyond judicial scrutiny) or the latest amendment affecting independence of the judiciary (a reference to the NJAC Act), the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional ethos.

That, if I may respectfully tell the attorney-general, is our Laxman Rekha.”
 
6. He’ll be the first Sikh to be Chief Justice
 
Justice Khehar, 64, will be the 44th chief justice of India and the first Sikh to head the Supreme Court. Before his elevation to the apex court, he was the chief justice of Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Punjab-Haryana (temporary charge). He has a master’s degree in law from Punjab Univesity and began practice in 1979.



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