Justice JS Khehar took over as the 44th Chief Justice of India on Wednesday morning. He succeeds Justice TS Thakur whose 13-month tenure ended on Tuesday.
Justice JS Khehar was administered the oath by President Pranab Mukherjee. He is the first Sikh to become the CJI and will hold the post for seven months.
Justice Khehar’s appointment was cleared by the President on December 19. His elevation as the CJI had come under challenge with three petitions before SC claiming he should not take over. All the three were dismissed, latest one being on Tuesday. The bench rejected the public interest petition saying “curtain should be brought down” on the controversy.
Known in the legal circle as a no-nonsense judge, Justice Khehar has delivered several high-profile judgments since he became a Supreme Court judge. As a lawyer too he handled important assignments including defending Justice V Ramaswami, a Judge of the Supreme Court, who was accused of corruption as the chief justice of Punjab and Haryana high court.
As a judge of the top court Justice Khehar was part of the bench that jailed Sahara chief Subrata Roy for flouting the order to refund money his company had collected from investors for two financial schemes declared illegal by SEBI. But Justice Khehar recused himself from hearing the case further without assigning any reason.
He headed the bench that ordered status quo ante in Arunachal Pradesh, reviving the Congress government last year. The verdict was an embarrassing moment for the NDA government which had imposed President’s Rule in the state.
He even led the bench that quashed the controversial law that gave executive a say in the appointment of judges. According to the judgment the Centre and top court’s collegium have to redraft the memorandum of procedure followed to nominate judges. This exercise remained incomplete with both the judiciary and executive refusing to blink. It would be a challenging task for Justice Khehar, who now heads the collegium to iron out the differences.
The son of a Kenyan migrant, Justice Khehar is also a regular blood donor. As a judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court he never missed a blood-donation camp. And, while being in the SC he visits the blood bank in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) every three months to donate blood.